How Shoe Choice Can Help (or Hurt) with Heel Pain
When it comes to heel pain, the type of footwear you choose can have a profound impact—for good or for ill. The right shoes will support your heels and cushion them as you walk, run, and play. Poor choices, however, leave you hobbled and sore.
Shoe Styles to Wear (and Avoid)
Shoes come in all shapes and sizes, but some styles are definitely better than others when it comes to avoiding problems like heel pain. For example, shoe styles that are linked with pain include:
- High heels are more associated with pain in the front of the foot, but ultra-high stilettos are a big problem for heels, too. These shoes put the arch in an unnatural position and can put excessive strain on the plantar fascia.
- Ballet flats can be just as bad. Here, the arches get no support whatsoever, and the heels don’t get much in the way of cushioning.
- Like flats, flip flops (along with most basic sandals) tend not to offer the support or cushioning you need. They can also alter the way you walk just to keep them on your feet—and these changes typically have negative biomechanical consequences for your joints.
Generally, a good pair of athletic or walking shoes will do your feet right. The same goes for many casual and dress shoes, so long as they’re made with biomechanically friendly features like arch support, midfoot stabilization, and proper cushioning. (We love Vionic footwear for this purpose, and offer them at our office shoe store.)
If you regularly engage in running or specific sports, we also highly encourage you to wear shoes made specifically for your chosen activities. Playing basketball, for example, places different types of demands and stress on feet than running or tennis.
Wearing shoes that are the wrong size is a major contributor to all kinds of foot injuries, including heel pain. All the cushioning and support in the world won’t matter if your shoes just plain don’t fit!
- Always measure both feet before you buy, and fit to the larger foot (if you find different sizes for left and right). Feet change size and shape over the years. Just because you were a size 9 for the last 20 years doesn’t mean you’re still one now!
- Width matters just as much as length. We know, we know—this can make shopping more of a challenge if you have extra narrow or extra wide feet. But avoiding pain is worth the extra effort.
- When you shop, wear the same style of socks you intend to wear with your shoes. The width of the sock can matter for the fit!
- Shop late in the day. Feet swell after a long day, so you want to be sure your shoes fit your feet when they’re at their greatest extent.
All Good Things Come to an End
A well-built shoe can last a long time if you take care of it. But all shoes wear down eventually. In particular, the insoles and midsoles gradually compress over time after bearing your weight, and this makes them less capable of cushioning your steps and protecting your bones and ligaments from damage. Even if they still look nice on the outside, worn-out shoes can cause a lot of heel pain and other problems.
A good rule of thumb for running and athletic shoes is that they need to be replaced every 350-500 miles of wear, depending on factors like your weight and running form. Keep an eye on the treads and replace old shoes if you notice excessive or uneven wear.
Orthotics Can Make a Difference
Sometimes, a good pair of shoes along isn’t enough—you need a little extra help. This may be the case if the structure of your feet themselves places excess strain on the arches or heels. Removing the default insoles and replacing them with custom orthotics fitted by our team can make the difference, allowing you to wear your normal shoes without soreness and pain.
If you can’t seem to get rid of your chronic heel pain no matter what shoes you wear, give us a call today. We’ll give you a thorough check-up and diagnosis, and help you determine what further treatments may be beneficial. Get started by calling (812) 481-7200 today.