The shoe market these days is as innovative as ever, with modern materials, designs, and styles to fit every hobby or activity. With so many options there is a lot of confusion regarding what to buy. In fact, one of Align Foot & Ankle’s most frequently asked questions is “what shoe should I wear?”
Short answer: it’s not a one size fits all. All of us have different foot & ankle anatomy. Shoe gear technology can help support faulty mechanics in anatomy, but what your foot needs is different than what my foot needs. With 28 bones, 33 tendons, & over 100 ligaments, the foot is very complex. The bone structure guides foot movement, but the joints & tendons provide dynamic strength & support. Dr. Barnett understands the subtle anatomical differences as well as what shoes are available to aid your feet in pain free, efficient walking, running, jumping, skipping, leaping, dunking, squatting, cartwheeling, golfing, back-hand-spring-ing, or whatever other activity you might be doing! So let’s dive in to those subtle differences in each shoe that can make or break it for you.
Custom Orthotics are the best option for high activity sports & almost all other activities. They should be fitted to the shoe you use during that activity.
Pronation Control are a great option for high arches. This type of shoes builds up the inside of the heel in the sole of the shoe to help keep the arch from collapsing too much & causing pain.
Stiff but Light-Weight Soles allow the foot to propel without stressing the small joints in the middle of the foot if that is where you’ve been experiencing pain.
Thick, Deep Sole shoes allow excellent shock absorption, to help take stress off ankle, knee, and hip joints. BUT weak, wobbly, unstable ankles beware of thick soles!
People with high arches, weak ankles, or people more prone to rolling their ankles are susceptible to injury with soles that are very thick. As the center of gravity is raised up, the stronger the ankle needs to be. High Top Shoes will help support the ankle, at home eversion & inversion ankle strengthening exercises, & gradually breaking any new shoe, on flat surfaces, will help people get the most of thick soled tennis shoes.
A proper Gait Analysis & Comprehensive Anatomy Exam should be performed by a podiatrist to fully understand your gait. During this analysis, Dr. Barnett will evaluate if your feet are prone to Pronation or Supination. High arch or flat foot? Wide or narrow? Ankle Strength, calf strength & much more to determine how much correction & which corrections will be necessary to eliminate pain or motion resistance. This is a critical step in choosing the correct shoe that many people skip or get bad advice on. While the gait analysis you have done at a shoe store might be accurate, if the person interpreting the information isn’t well-versed, they could recommend the wrong shoe & accidentally waste your money & cause further pain or injury. Well trained podiatrist can assess your biomechanics to ensure you don’t get the wrong correction.
Another major consideration in shoes is simply getting the right fit. Proper foot measuring including foot length, width (with weight bearing) & even arch height, is essential. Many patients Dr. Barnett treats have shoes that are too small, too narrow, or even too large. Measuring each foot individually & fitting the shoes to the larger foot is vital. Oh & just because you’re an adult doesn’t mean your foot stopped changing! Pregnancy hormones are notorious for causing foot changes. Always get remeasured!
Let’s talk Laces Technique. In a recent interview with Reader’s Digest, Dr Barnett was asked about heel lock. It is the technique of simply looping the lace over the top eye loop in the shoes to allow constant tension to be maintained regardless of how tight the lace knot is thus allowing the bottom and back of the shoe to fit snug to tongue. This helps prevent minor slipping in the shoe that will prevent blisters & instability. The smaller foot fitted into a bigger shoe can benefit from the heel lock technique to help secure a larger shoe to the foot.
Proper shoe lacing is crucial to prevent blisters, instability, & pain. If someone has a very high arch, Dr. Barnett recommends a shoe with a shoe tongue that is separate from the shoe to allow the top to manually loosen. For high arches, Dr. Barnett sometimes recommends skipping every other eye hole moving up the shoe to allow the shoe to be snug without pressing to hard on the top of the foot. If someone has a bone spur on the top of the foot, skipping the eye holes around the spur will take pressure of the spur while still keeping the shoe secure to the foot.
Patients often ask which shoe is best after they’ve gotten Custom Orthotics. The answer is pretty simple: whatever fits the device best & has no extra correction. A neutral shoe with a removable insert will fit a custom insert the best. But not all orthotics are created equal. The best inserts take a 3D mold of each foot, & a trained biomechanics expert will then overcorrect a device to protect & correct the feet. Custom inserts serve a unique purpose, therefore it is hard for one insert to fit every kind of shoe & purpose (such as running verse a daily walker).
Key takeaways….get an expert assessment.
For the best results Dr. Barnett recommends the following steps: 1) Proper Foot Size Measurement; 2) Fully Anatomy Evaluation (x-rays/ultrasounds recommended); 3) Full Gait Analysis performed by a Biomechanical Expert. From there recommendations will be made as to which shoe or custom inserts are best for YOU!