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Foot Problems: Finding the Right Shoes
Footwear plays a large role in the development of foot and toe problems such as bunions, calluses and corns, and hammer, claw, and mallet toes. Shoes that don't fit properly make these conditions worse and more painful. But wearing the right shoes may help keep foot problems from becoming worse.
- A comfortable, well-fitted shoe offers you the best chance of:
- Relieving pain in the foot or toe that is caused by a deformity or joint problem.
- Preventing a foot or toe problem from getting worse.
- Preventing a toe joint problem from returning after corrective surgery.
- Before shopping for shoes for your foot problem, ask your foot doctor for recommendations.
How do I find the right shoes?
For some people, the only acceptable option is a sandal or athletic shoe that doesn't rub on an existing bunion, callus or corn, or hammer, claw, or mallet toe. You may also be able to have a cobbler make changes to your shoes to make them more comfortable. But most people will be able to find a shoe that causes little or no pain and allows them to function.
Before shopping for new footwear, ask your foot doctor for recommendations specific to your needs.
Consider the following when shopping for footwear:
- Try on shoes at the end of the day, when your feet are at their largest due to normal swelling.
- If you have shoe inserts or orthotics, bring them with you to test them out in various shoes.
- Shoe size, especially width, may change with age. Having both feet measured ensures a good fit and identifies which foot is larger. Fit your shoes according to how the larger foot feels in the shoe.
- Stand during the fitting process to get an accurate sense of the fit.
- Walk around the store to make sure that the shoe fit feels right.
- If a shoe feels right but isn't your normal size, pay attention to how it feels. Ignore shoe size.
- You should not have to "break in" shoes if they fit properly.
- If a particular shoe fits snugly, the clerk may be able to stretch the shoe for a better fit.
- If you are at a high risk of falling, ask your doctor what else to think about when you choose a shoe.
When shopping for the right fit, look for:
- A low heel. Avoid high-heeled, narrow, or pointed-toe shoes. High-heeled shoes increase pressure on the front of the foot and on the toe joints. If you cannot avoid wearing pumps or high-heeled shoes, choose shoes with heels that are no more than 2 in. (5 cm) high.
- A wide and deep toe box (the area that surrounds the toes). There should be about 0.5 in. (1.3 cm) of space between your longest toe and the end of the shoe. You should be able to wiggle your toes in your shoes.
- A shoe that has a soft but rigid back to keep your heel from slipping out.
- A sole that doesn't hurt. For some people this means a flexible sole that allows your toes to bend as you walk. For other people, a firm sole that helps the joints stay straight is more comfortable.
- A shoe that allows the ball of your foot to fit snugly into the widest part of the shoe.
- A shoe with laces, Velcro, or a zipper rather than a slip-on shoe. Athletic shoes are a good choice.
- Shoes that breathe when your feet sweat. Avoid plastic or vinyl shoes.
- Shoes that do not have seams that may rub against or irritate the skin over your foot problem.
- Wear sandals or soft-leather flat shoes or slippers, or buy an inexpensive pair of cloth shoes and cut a hole over the affected joint.
- Go barefoot as much as possible (or just wear a sock) unless you have diabetes or peripheral arterial disease or other conditions that decrease the feeling in your feet. People who have these conditions and have limited or no sensation in their feet are encouraged not to go barefoot, because unnoticed injuries to their feet are more likely to become infected.
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