Wearing good shoes can help you feel your best and prevent injuries. Shoe choice can affect your whole body, not just your feet.
Kelsey Gaston, licensed physical therapist at the University Health Center, shares advice on how to find a proper shoe:
1. Choose a shoe with a firm foundation
Shoes ground the body like the foundation of a house. If a house is built on a mushy, soft foundation, the house will become wobbly and off-kilter. The same will happen to your body if you choose a shoe with a squishy base. Test a shoe’s foundation by gently bending it at the toe. If it folds in half, that’s a sign it’s too soft. If it bends somewhat but stays mostly rigid, it has good support.
2. Make sure it has arch support
Certain trendy shoes like Vans, Chucks and others have a flat sole, which can cause pain over time. Shoes with arches provide support across the bottom of your foot, giving you greater balance and stability.
It’s better to choose a shoe with a built-in arch rather than adding an insert. If you must buy an insert, avoid purchasing off the shelf from a big-box store. Visit a specialty store instead, like the Lincoln Running Company, where they can fit your foot for the proper insole.
3. Go for laces
Generally, shoes that lace up are preferred over slip-ons because they provide better support and hold your foot in place to the sole of a shoe. Birkenstocks sandals, for example, have an arch but won’t protect your feet as well as a tennis shoe or running shoe.
4. Buy for your foot type and comfort level
Don’t buy a shoe simply because it’s your favorite color, it’s on sale or a friend suggested it. Choose one that is most comfortable for you.
Start by having your foot measured by a professional at a shoe store to determine the size and width you need. Get remeasured at least once every few years because your foot size and shape can change over time.
Next, try on different brands and styles to find one that feels most comfortable to you. Don’t let brand loyalty keep you from exploring your options.
As a guideline, avoid shoes that have a narrow toe box and don’t provide at least a finger-width gap between your big toe and the shoe’s edge. Remember to stand up and walk around in the shoes to see what they feel like when your foot lies flat.
5. Replace old, worn shoes
Shoes don’t last forever. Upgrade when the texture on the bottom of your shoes begins to wear around the heels or balls of your feet. When you toss your old shoes, use this as an opportunity to try on new brands and styles. In some cases, your tried-and-true favorite is still the right shoe for you or maybe you will find a new favorite. Keep an open mind.
6. Be intentional about high heels
It’s no secret that heels cause stress on the body, especially when worn over long periods of time. When possible, pick flats over heels. If you choose to wear heels, have a friend drop you off at the venue or park close by so you don’t have to walk long distances in your shoes. Better yet, wear walking shoes to the venue and switch into your heels before you go in.
7. Get help when you have pain
Improper shoes can cause pain not only in the feet but also in the calves, shins, knees, hips and lower back. If you notice this pain, upgrade to a properly fitted, comfortable new tennis shoe or athletic shoe first. If you’re still experiencing pain, it may be time to see a physical therapist.
The University Health Center physical therapy team helps students manage a variety of pains and strains related to everyday student life. If you think you could benefit from their services, talk to a doctor at the health center or elsewhere to get a physical therapy order. Once you have the order in hand, call 402.472.5000 to schedule a physical therapy appointment. Visit the website to learn more about their services and get tips for staying well.