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It’s a Shoe-In

Physio&SoleClinic Podiatry December 22 2014

Vanity and good sense have been at odds since the invention of high heel shoes which have enamoured women for years. Podiatrist Hu Wenyan shares the risks of five popular shoe types and how to pick the right footwear for yourself.


Shoe type: Platform heels, stilettos,wedges

Why it’s bad: Posture malalignment can occur as the heel forces our center of gravity forward, causing the hips, lower back and spine to be pushed out of balance, resulting in long-term lower back and leg pain. “Teenagers who start on high heels at an earlier age are at higher risk of posture malalignment as their bodies have not fully developed,” says Wenyan. The high heels also add pressure to the knees, increasing the risk of injuries and arthritis. Other problems include foot deformities from the narrow toe box, and corns and calluses from increased pressure at the balls of the feet.


Shoe type: Flip-flops
Why it’s bad: As flip-flops provide no support at the heel or toes, wearers can only grip the shoe by clenching their toes. The unequal use of these small foot muscles and muscular imbalances can cause deformities like hammertoes or claw toes. You may also experience pain from overworking these muscles.


Shoe type: Ballet flats or pumps
Why it’s bad: “Pumps are often ill-fitting because they have no straps and we tend to select a size smaller and tighter so the shoe feels secure,” says Wenyan. Plus, the toe box is often narrow and the toes stay contracted when moving, leading to deformities like bunions or hammertoes in the long run. And although pumps have more support compared to flip-flops, it is still insufficient and can cause muscle strains to the arch, ankle or calves. The Bottom Line While these five shoe types are not suitable for prolonged walking, you can still enjoy them on certain occasions. There is little harm in throwing on a pretty pair of heels
for a formal dinner, and flip-flops for a quick visit to the supermarket. For long-term health and comfort, let sensibility trump fashion or fads. Check out our easy
guide below to pick out a pair of shoes that are truly made for walking.


Your Shoe-Shopping Guide

  • For the best fit, find out your exact shoe size. Various specialty sports stores offer measurement services. Alternatively, seek a consultation with a podiatrist.
  • It is best to go with a maximum of one or one-and-a-half inches of heel height.
  • Look for a wider heel base so your weight is spread out.
  • Found a pair you like? Walk in them around the store for a good five minutes. Check the comfort level and whether there is any area of redness on your feet after.
  • Allow one thumb’s width between your longest toe and the tip of the shoe. There should also be adequate width and depth at the toe box.
  • Choose shoes that are appropriate for the activity – flip-flops are no substitute for walking shoes if you are planning a day of hiking.


Photo by Tirachard Kumtanom from Pexels.

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