Some serious back disorders, leg cramps, neuromas and bunions can often be linked to one avoidable thing: inappropriate, poor-quality or ill-fitting shoes. Shoes that fit well and are made well can pay big dividends for your spine (and rest of the body) down the road. The most important quality to look for in shoes is durable construction that will help to provide protection and support to your feet.
Here are some tips you should follow when shopping for footwear:
* Measure your foot before trying on shoes. Just because we stop growing at age 18-21, doesn't mean we are locked into the same shoe size for life. Many manufacturers' shoes run differently from others and your shoe size may just change without you being aware of it. Gaining weight, losing weight, post-pregnancy and post- foot surgery are all examples of reasons why our shoe size could change.
* Fit new shoes to your largest foot. Most people have one foot larger than the other.
* Do not force your feet in order to conform to the shape of a pair of shoes. Shoes should feel comfortable from the minute you put them on or they are not appropriate for you. Do not count on shoes stretching out or breaking in - only buy them if they are comfortable and fit you well while you are in the store.
* Most high-heeled shoes have a pointed or narrow toe box that can crowd the toes and force them into an unnatural postion once inside the shoe. As heel height increases, the pressure under the ball of the foot may double, placing greater pressure on the forefoot as it is forced toward the toe box.
* Your heel must fit well into your shoes. If your heel moves around too much or even slips out of the shoe as you walk, you are placing yourself at greater risk of injury.
* There should be a half inch of space from the end of your longest toe to the inside end of the shoe.
* When the shoe is on your foot, you should be able to freely wiggle your toes.
* Try on both shoes.
* Try on new shoes at the end of your day. Feet can swell and become quite fatigued at the end of the day so it is always good to try on shoes while your feet are in their most fragile condition.
* Ideally, women should not wear a shoe that has a heel higher than 2.25 inches. Our bodies are not designed to withstand the strain that is caused by a shoe that has a heel greater than this height.
* Avoid shoes that have seams, buckles or straps over areas of pain, such as a bunion.
* Avoid shoes with heavy rubber shoes that curl over the top of the toe area (such as seen on some running shoes), as they can catch more easily on carpets and cause an accidental fall.
* Laced, rather than slip-on shoes, provide a more secure fit and can accommodate insoles, orthotic devices and braces.
* Flat shoes (with a heel height of one inch or less) are the healthiest shoes for your feet. If you must wear a high heel, keep the heel height reasonable and try not to wear them longer than 3 hours at a stretch.
* Look for shoes with soles that are shock-absorbing and skid resistant, such as rubber rather than smooth leather.
* Shoes should be made of a soft material that has some give, like glove leathers.