Shoes: What to look for

Just about the time your old shoes finally feel comfortable, you notice they are worn out and you have to start all over and shop for a new pair. For many people, buying shoes is a formidable, frustrating task. The following pointers may help.

The “old wives tale” about it being better to shop for shoes in the afternoon is absolutely true. Feet swell during the course of the day. Shoes purchased in the morning may be too tight by the afternoon. No two feet are alike—including yours. Try on both shoes of a pair before buying them.

Length. A shoe should extend about 1/2″ beyond your longest toe. The second toe is the longest in about 1/3 of the population

Width. If you pinch the shoe across the top at its widest part you should be able to grasp a small amount of material between your fingers.

Measurements should all be taken when you are standing. The foot is longer and wider when there is weight on it.

Sole. The sole should provide good cushioning and should be able to easily bend where the foot normally bends. Children’s shoes are often too rigid. A child cannot walk normally in a shoe that requires more bending force than the child actually weighs.

Heels. 1/2″ to 1 1/2″ are best. High heels drastically alter the normal mechanics of walking. This may accelerate the development of deformities and irritate existing ones. If you’ve been wearing high heels for a long time, low heels may be uncomfortable at first. That is usually because the muscles in the back of the leg have accommodated and shortened.

Negative heels (e.g. Earth Shoe) may be very uncomfortable for those with tight calf muscles.

Rubber heels provide much better shock absorption than leather heels and are therefore preferable.

Counter. This is the part of the shoe that holds the heel. It should be snug to provide the greatest stability.

Material. There are over 250,000 sweat glands in each foot. If the sweat can’t evaporate, fungus and bacteria will thrive. Leather allows the foot to “breathe.” Plastic does not breathe and should therefore be avoided.

Don’t depend on the advice of well meaning friends. Your feet are different from theirs. Be happy for your friend that they have found comfort and keep on looking.

Children don’t need shoes until they walk. Stiff soled shoes are to be avoided for the reasons discussed above. A well made sneaker provides adequate support and is usually more comfortable to wear.

General size. Shoes must fit your feet. Not just your eyes. Put differently, your can’t put a gallon of foot in a pint of shoe.