Shoes and Foot Health: Expert Tips
written by Dr. Jacqueline Sutera
In these unprecedented times where our country and the world is told to stay home, every facet of our lives is experiencing a “new normal.” Simple everyday errands like grocery shopping are now becoming challenging. Going out to dinner, vacations, birthday parties, visiting friends and family, shopping at a mall, and even going to the gym have all stopped! We are all encouraged to get food delivered from local restaurants and grocery stores when possible, and socially distance ourselves from everyone. We must hold meetings, check in with family, and do practically everything virtually. My nephew logged into his virtual classroom holding up his stuffed animal for show and tell. My college friend who is a motivational speaker is doing classes online for clients followed by a virtual happy hour so everyone can get to know each other. My offices are now shifting to Telehealth visits, where I can virtually examine, diagnose and advise my patients on treatments. This week, my son will turn one year old and I will set up a Zoom virtual party so our family and friends can all sing happy birthday to him.
The silver lining is that we can all use this time to reflect and to make the most of being home. Life is forcing us to slow down. You can make small changes with big results. In my house, it’s back to basics. We go for walks locally when the weather allows and try to get enough sleep. We eat dinner together every day. I make time for meditation, exercise, and myself, in addition to conference calls, meetings, work and house chores.
Vionic encourages us to Walk. Move. Live. Even during times of shelter in place, social distancing and self-quarantine, we can and must continue to walk, move and live, even if it’s at home. We can make big changes in our health by taking small steps, starting now. We can choose to be good to ourselves even in times of global crisis. Staying active is not only good for your physical body – to stay in shape and have a healthy immune system – but also for your emotional and mental wellbeing. At Vionic, we believe that shoes and foot health are closely related and it’s a number one priority for us to help you maintain your foot health with supportive footwear. From wearing comfortable stylish shoes with arch support to avoiding barefoot activities, here are our top tips and expert advice regarding shoes and foot health.
Wear Appropriate Shoes for Any Activity
A lot of technology goes into comfortable shoes. For example, running and walking shoes are made for forward motion while basketball and tennis are made for lateral/side to side motion. Make sure to choose your styles accordingly!
Replace any old and worn-out shoes. The general rule of thumb is to replace your shoes every 8-10 months but you might need to do so sooner if you are particularly hard on your shoes. However, warm weather shoes – such as comfortable walking sandals – might need to be replaced after only one or two seasons if they are not worn year-round.
A good way to measure whether your shoes are worn out is to run the “tabletop test.” To do this, put your shoes at eye level on your tabletop and examine the symmetry and integrity. Are they even? Are they worn? Then flip them upside down and examine the tread. Is it smooth? Does it have holes?! If so, resole or better yet – replace!
Old and worn-out shoes and shoes can hurt your feet and overall skeleton. Any shoe with worn-out soles force your foot to land at an increased angle. This can stress out bones, muscles, ligaments and tendons and can cause sprains, fractures, strains, inflammation and injury. Old shoes might feel good because they are broken in and comfortable, just like junk food might taste good, but it is not good for you.
Avoid Walking Barefoot Around the House
It can be very tempting, especially in the summertime, to be barefoot or live in flip flops. But avoid being barefoot on hard surfaces for long periods of time. Use shoes and types of sandals with arch support, cushioning and shock absorption, and limit use of high heels and very flat or thin types of sandals and flip flops.
Choose styles that fit you correctly. You want to wear shoes that will accommodate your specific needs, especially if you have a wider foot, bone spur, hammertoe or bunion. Avoid buying shoes that are not quite right just because they are on sale or because you like the style! Don’t wear hand-me-down shoes or purchase any second-hand shoes. These have wear patterns from the previous person and can cause injury. Plus, there is also hygiene concern when looking at the effects of wearing hand-me-down shoes.
Hard Surfaces are Harsh on the Feet
When walking on hardwood, cement, stone, or ceramic tile, there is really nothing to absorb the shock between you and the ground. Over time, this behavior can contribute to deterioration to your fat pad, which serves as the foot’s natural cushion. Women should be especially cognizant of fat pad atrophy, as they’re more likely to develop it due to hormone changes. Limit your barefoot time to carpet or cork flooring only, and wear comfortable, supportive footwear when on harder indoor surfaces. My at-home go-to: Vionic’s Relax Slippers. These supportive slippers are plush and provide comfortable arch support as you walk around your house.
Being barefoot at home for long periods of time can lead to foot pain, especially during pregnancy when feet tend to spread and widen. Closed supportive slippers with extra cushioning, shock absorption and arch support are your best bet.
Walking barefoot can cause degeneration of the natural cushion and fat pad on the bottom of the foot. Without this fat, you are literally walking or running on skin and bone. Once this fat pad degenerates it’s gone forever. Protect it by wearing well-padded shoes and supportive slippers while at home, like those made by Vionic with built-in arch support and cushion. Think of time at home, or when not working out as “active recovery.” Make foot loving choices!
Alternate Between Comfortable Footwear
Alternate shoe gear throughout the day and week. The repetitive stress of walking and wearing the same shoes every day, all day, can inflame ligaments, tendons and fascia and even cause pain, injury and stress fractures. Wearing the same style shoe in different colours is just as bad! They should be different styles and types of shoes. Try switching from slippers during early morning and late evening hours, and alternate between casual sneakers/work-out sneakers like Tokyo Sneaker for women or the men’s Jackson Sneaker. You can wear the Damian Sneaker for commuting and supportive types of shoes or flats like the men’s Luca Slip-on Loafer during the day. Different types of sandals like the women’s Tide Aloe Toe Post Sandal and Clarissa Platform Sandal will be my go to’s for the upcoming warmer weather this spring and summer! Save heels, if desired, for a few hours here and there, for parties and events. If you do wear heels wear styles like wedge heels that have Vionic’s technology built into them for ultimate arch support.
I have been advising my patients to safely stay active outside and in the home and all the rules still apply: make sure your shoes are in good shape, do not spend too much time barefoot, alternate shoes throughout day and week, and wear shoes appropriate for your activity.
How to Find Supportive Shoes:
Heel Test – Push the heel of the shoe toward the inside of the shoe. If the heel is easy to push down it won’t provide good support for your heel. The best shoes will have a sturdy heel to support the entire foot and ankle.
Toe Test – Push the toe of the shoe up to try to bend the front of the shoe up. If the shoe is easy to bend it will not provide good support. The best shoes will have very little bend except for the ball of the foot.
Twist Test – Hold the shoe in both hands with one hand gripping the heel and one hand gripping the bottom of the front of the shoe. Twist the heel in one direction while twisting the front of the shoe in the opposite direction. The best shoes will be difficult to twist. If the shoe is easy to twist it will not provide good support.
Foot Pain Treatment and Prevention:
- Avoid being barefoot, wear supportive shoes, avoid thin, flat, old and worn-out shoes.
- Calf stretches in the morning and after long periods of rest are very important in prevention of plantar fasciitis. Keeping the Achilles loose and limber and stretched so it doesn’t tighten up is paramount. If the Achilles tendon is tight, the plantar fascia will become tight and inflamed.
- Massaging the calf and arch can also provide relief as well as prevent fasciitis. An easy way to incorporate this is after bath or shower when applying body moisturizer. Apply a bit more pressure when going over your legs, calves and arches. Use your knuckles to get into the fleshy part of your calf for a deeper, daily massage and use the “tick tack toe” cross fiber technique in your arch. Massage lengthwise as well as across your entire foot arches. This does a really great job of fascial release and prevention of fasciitis.