If you want healthy feet, buy the right shoes. Here are some tips to guide you:
- Have your feet measured. Sizes change, shoe shapes (“lasts”) vary, and your feet grow over the years. In particular, the front of the foot gets wider and longer as you age. Put your full weight on your foot as it’s being measured. Nearly everyone has one foot that’s larger than the other; choose the size that fits the larger one.
- Feet expand during the course of the day (because of friction, heat, use, and prolonged standing), so shop at the end of the day if you can, when foot swelling is greatest.
- When standing, there should be half an inch of space between your largest toe and the tip of the shoe, and your toes should have room to wiggle upward.
- Make sure that the area of the metatarsal joints (the widest part of your foot) fits comfortably in the widest part of the shoe. The shoe should bend where your foot bends.
- Never buy uncomfortable shoes with the idea of breaking them in: The shoes won’t change, but your feet may—for the worse.
- Avoid high heels. They cause foot deformities because they apply force to the forefoot and usually have narrow toes. They can also cause backaches, knee arthritis, and ankle sprains. At the very least, save high heels for special occasions of limited duration.
- If you buy shoes online, make sure there is a lenient return policy so you don’t have to hesitate about returning them if they don’t fit well (don’t be tempted to keep them). Some companies pay for return shipping—and even encourage customers to buy two sizes to see which is better. You might also try to limit online shopping to shoes or brands that you already know fit well.
For more advice on how to select the best shoes, go to the website of the American Orthopaedic Foot & Ankle Society.
A note about lacing shoes
If you have foot problems, custom lacing your athletic shoes can provide a better fit and help prevent pain and injury. The more eyelets there are, the easier it is to custom lace them. For example, if there are two sets of eyelets on each side, you can use those farthest from the tongue for narrow feet and those closest to the tongue for wide feet. For heel slipping problems, use all eyelets and increase the tension as you move to the heel area. For a narrow heel and wide forefoot, use two sets of short laces and lace the heel and toe areas separately. Locking your laces, a way to tie them for a super tight finish, also helps if you have narrow feet or your heels tend to slip. For more details and illustrations on lacing, see How to Lace Shoes for Proper Fit on the AOFAS website.
Also see 9 Steps to Fit Feet.