By Brian Hoke
Choosing Your Shoes
The shoes we choose become very important when we need to be on our feet for extended periods of time, particularly when we will be more active. When we select a fitness shoe for our leisure activities or sports, it helps to have some guiding principles to give us the best likelihood of supportive, comfortable fit.
We usually begin the journey by selecting shoes by the size we think we wear. As most people know, this number does not equate to the same width and length when comparing different manufacturers. A size 7 in one brand may be the same fit as a 7 ½ or 8 in another brand. The standard measuring tool to determine shoe size is called a Brannock device. Studies have shown that in later adulthood our shoe size actually increases, so be sure to get a fresh measurement every few years.
Checking for Size
It is quite typical for right dominant individuals to have a longer left foot. If you don’t have a Brannock device, try doing a simple tracing of each foot while standing up to determine which foot is longer and wider.
Once you determine the larger foot, try the shoe on to evaluate the fit. You should have ¼” to 3/8” of room beyond the longest toes. Studies have shown that most people wear a shoe that is at least ½ size too small. If you can get the insole out of some shoes you have worn frequently, check the toe prints on the insole. If there’s very little space beyond the longest toes, go to a bigger size.
Check for Support
When you have a shoe in the right size range, there are a few other tests that will tell you whether the shoe is well suited to foot support and function. Put the heel area of the shoe between your thumb and fingers and squeeze firmly. The shoe should feel firm against your pressure, and the inside walls of the heel area of the shoe should not touch.
It is also important that the shoe bends naturally in the forefoot area. Put the shoe on end and press down. The shoe should bend in the ball of the foot. A shoe that bends in the arch area will not give you the support you need and can easily lead to foot and arch pain. A shoe that cannot bend in the forefoot will not allow for the natural movement that allows the body to transfer the weight from the heel to the toes as you walk or run.
The shoe also needs to have adequate room for the width of the foot, particularly in the forefoot. When you put the shoe on while sitting, you should still be able to pinch a small bit of the material in the toe box area. If the material is already stretched tightly while seated, it may be too tight when you stand up because the foot goes through a natural elongation and broadens as it accepts the weight of the body. Shoes that use material such as mesh may prove more comfortable as they can stretch in multiple directions to match the contours of the foot.
Let Your Shoes Help You
As I have mentioned above, there are a number of different things to check when it comes to finding the right shoes. Unfortunately, not taking these points into account can potentially lead to injuries and pain. It is very important that the shoe fits correctly and functions the way it should. Don’t let your shoes hurt you, instead let them assist in feeling your best and achieving your goals!
About the Author:
Specializing in orthopedic and sports physical therapy, Brian Hoke, DPT, SCS has a particular interest in the biomechanical factors influencing lower limb rehabilitation. He is co-owner and director of Atlantic Physical Therapy, a private practice in Virginia Beach, VA.
Brian is a board certified Clinical Specialist in Sports Physical Therapy, a distinction achieved by fewer than 600 physical therapists in the U.S. He works with athletes of all levels—from recreational runners to elite professional and Olympic athletes. He has contributed chapters to two textbooks on the treatment of running injuries.
Brian is an avid educator, lecturing extensively in the U.S. and internationally. Since 1985, he has been a faculty member of the popular continuing medical education seminar, “When the Feet Hit the Ground, Everything Changes.” He co-developed and has taught the “Take the Next Step” course since 1990. In addition, he has been an adjunct faculty member of physical therapy programs at Old Dominion University and Touro College on Long Island, NY.
Brian’s expertise in sports physical therapy is a particular asset to Vionic’s athletic line of footwear. He and Phillip Vasyli have also collaborated to create a foot orthotic designed for problems with supination—when feet roll outward too much.