Are Your Shoes Killing Your Feet?

ByABC News via via logo

N E W   Y O R K, July 30, 2001 -- Nothing looks more fashionable than a strappy pair of heels or stilettos for a night out. But are the admiring looks and compliments enough to drown out the protests from your squeezed-together toes and blistered heels?

More than 43 million Americans, or one out of every six people, have problems with their feet, at health costs of more than $3.5 billion per year, according to the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons.

Most of the sufferers are women, many of whom admit that sporting the latest shoes is sometimes more important than feeling comfortable in them. But there are some great-looking shoes that are actually good for your feet, as shoe designer Dr. Taryn Rose said on Good Morning America. Rose was an orthopedist before the sight of too many foot problems caused by bad shoes prompted her to switch careers.

"In my practice, I saw the problems wearing bad shoes would cause," Rose said. "I had a vision to create a line that had a designer look and marry that with comfort features. I wanted to allow women to look good and not injure themselves."

She has traced many foot problems, including calluses, back to bad shoes. Women account for 90 percent of foot surgeries in the United States, with foot ailments ranging from bunions and hammertoes to neuroma, the swelling of the nerves in the ball of the foot. Women in their 40s and 50s often find that they have pain and large deformities from wearing ill-fitting shoes, Rose said.

A survey by the American Orthopaedic Foot and Ankle Society revealed that 50 percent of women were dissatisfied with their ability to find dress shoes that are fashionable and comfortable, despite the fact that 60 percent said they paid $50 to $200 for shoes.

Rose says you can find shoes that are stylish and comfortable. Here are her tips on what to look for while shoe shopping.

Proper fit: Look for shoes that are designed specifically for the anatomy of a woman's foot. There should be plenty of room in the toe box area, and the heel area should fit tightly. The toe box must be wide enough for your foot, and shoes should be no smaller than the outline of the footprint of your foot. Women who wear shoes that are half an inch narrower than the footprint are much more likely to have pain. You should be able to wiggle your feet up and down, and be able to slide forward half an inch, because your foot slides that much when you walk.

Flexibility: To allow for excellent range of motion, the shoe's uppers should be soft and have give because your foot flexes as you walk.

Breathability: The No. 3 complaint women have is that their shoes are too hot, which makes them uncomfortable. To avoid heat at your feet, look for shoes made of quality materials, because the better the leather, the better they breathe.

Cushioning: Shoes should be cushioned to soften the blow of each footfall. The cushioning acts like shock absorbers to decrease joint ache.

Wearability: Shoes should be lightweight. The heavier they are, the harder they are on your feet, and the more tiring they are to wear.

Arch Support: Shoes should have good, firm arch support. Women's feet are more likely to pronate (turn inward) than men's feet are, and so the arch support will help prevent that by redistributing weight throughout your foot. There won't be one point of the shoe that has the increased pressure of all your weight.

Low, stable heels: Look for shoes that are lower than two inches — the flatter, the better. As heel size increases there is seven times more pressure on the ball of your foot. Neither high heels nor platform shoes are good for your feet, Rose said. Platforms are more comfortable, and easier to balance on because they are flat, but they are also easier to fall off of.

When buying shoes, Rose suggests shopping at the end of the day when your feet are more swollen. Shoes that fit well at that time should feel comfortable anytime. Also, walk on a hard surface, rather than carpet, to see if there is enough cushioning to keep the foot comfortable.

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