When shopping for shoes, don’t just make your choice based on fashion alone. You also want to consider function and keeping your feet in good shape. The primary purpose of shoes is to protect your feet and prevent injury. Poorly fitted shoes can cause discomfort, injury and permanent deformity, affecting your whole body, not just your feet.

How to make sensible shoe purchases

Understanding the components of a shoe and the proper fit can help you make sensible shoe purchases. The most important quality to look for in shoes is durable construction and a good fit. The right shoe cushions the foot, supports the foot, feels comfortable, and fits well.

A shoe is composed of different parts:

Toe box. The toe box is the tip of the shoe that provides space for the toes. It can be rounded or pointed.

Vamp. The vamp is the upper middle part of the shoe where the laces are commonly placed. Sometimes velcro is substituted instead of laces.

Sole. The sole consists of both an insole and an outsole. The insole is on the inside and the outsole contacts the ground.

Heel. The heel is the rear of the shoe that can provide some form of elevation. The higher the heel, the greater the pressure on the front of the foot. The lower the heel, the greater the tension on the Achilles tendon.

A good fitting shoe curves in slightly near the arch of the foot and conforms comfortably to the shape of the foot.

The material of the shoe can affect fit and comfort as well. Of course, softer materials decrease the amount of pressure a shoe places on the foot while stiff materials can cause blistering and callus formation.

Recommendations for Footwear and Fit

The human foot can change size as frequently as every 2 years, so foot size should be measured every 2 years.

  • Fit should be measured at the end of the day because feet tend to expand at the end of the day.
  • The shoes should be fitted to your longer and wider foot. Almost no one has two feet that are identical in size.
  • Shoes should be fitted carefully to heel and toes to prevent too much sliding around and creating blistering and causing other damage.
  • If a shoe feels too tight, do not buy them. There is no such thing as a break-in period for shoes.
  • If one of your feet is considerably larger than the other, an orthotic or insole can be added.

Always remember, fashionable shoes can be comfortable as well.

Buying Shoes for the Family

Children’s Shoes

Children do not generally need shoes until they begin walking usually at around the age of 12-15 months. Up until that point, socks or booties are enough to protect a child’s feet and keep them warm.

Men’s Shoes

Most men’s shoes conform to the shape of the feet and have a roomy toe box with sufficient horizontal and vertical space and a low heel. If you stand for an extended period of time, shoes with soft pliable soles will help keep your feet comfortable.

Women’s Shoes

Low heeled shoes, generally 1.5 inches or lower with a wide toe box are ideal. An ample toe box can accommodate the foot comfortably.

Try to avoid wearing high heels all the time. Heels that are 2 inches or more with a narrow toe box can have a detrimental effect on the feet, knees, and spine. If you have to wear high heels for a special event, switch to lower heel shoes if you have to walk any distance.

Work Shoes

Work shoes are generally tailored specifically to a particular occupation and particular needs with protection in the toe box as well as different soles to protect different levels of traction.

Athletic Shoes

Buy a shoe designed for the sport. The purpose of athletic shoes is to protect the feet from the specific stressors encountered in a given sport as well as to maximize the amount of traction provided by a shoe.

When to Replace Shoes

You should replace your shoes when the heels begin to wear out. Wearing shoes with worn heels will alter every step you take and can cause pain in the leg or back.

Running shoes should be replaced every 350 to 500 miles. This may not seem like a long time, especially when you consider the price of some athletic shoes, but the soles began to wear out over time and lose their capacity to absorb shock. If you strictly use your running shoes for running, they will last longer.  Use your old running shoes for walking.

Keeping Your Feet Pain Free

The key ingredient of any shoe is a good fit. A good fit will reduce blisters and other skin irritations as well as the possibility for injury and permanent deformity–keeping your feet pain free.
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