Poor footwear choice can cause more than foot pain, especially in summer
Wearing the wrong footwear can lead to back, ankle and other problems. Athletes are not the only ones who need to be selective with their footwear.
“Shoes that are too tight, too loose or without enough support, can lead to unwanted stress on the feet, ankles, lower leg, hip and spine,” according to the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons. “This ongoing pressure can cause pain and injuries that may limit or prevent participation in work, sports and hobbies.”
- Heel: Needs a “broad base” and be no longer than one-and-a-half inches
- Sole: Should be cushioned and have “enough grip to prevent slipping”
- Linings: Made of smooth, seam-free “breathable materials” to keep “the foot fresh”
- Toe box: Enough room for “toes to wiggle” “Make sure there’s half an inch of space between your longest toe and the end of the shoe,” the Society further recommends. “There should be enough width in the shoe to accommodate your whole foot – there should be no pressure on the joints on the sides of your foot.”
Also, shopping for shoes in the afternoon is advisable, as feet tend to swell a bit during the day.
Summer time is a popular time for people to wear a type of footwear that doesn’t always provide the best support – flip flops and sandals. “Shop for a flip-flop made with thick cushioned soles and neoprene rubber upper area. Neoprene rubber is wet suit like material and minimizes the potential for blisters and other types of irritation,” said Dr. Edward Szabo, a Georgia Regents Health System podiatrist, via a press release. “Make sure the flip-flop has some raised arch support. This will help distribute pressure more evenly.”
He also suggests to wear another type of footwear when walking long distances and doing yard work. “If you wear flip-flops for a long period of time, the lack of support can lead to stress and strain on joints and tendons,” said Dr. John M. Giurini, Beth Israel Deaconess Hospital’s chief of podiatry in an online article. “If you have a mechanically unsound foot to begin with, wearing flip flops can actually lead to a host of lower extremity problems, such as arch pain, heel pain, ankle pain or knee pain.”
Using the wrong footwear can also cause the following, according to the American Pediatric Medical Association:
Athlete’s foot: A skin disease caused by a fungus that grows as result of damp environments such as sweaty feet; prevention includes wearing clean, airy shoes
Bunions and corns: This bump (bunion) and thickened skin patch (corn) can be caused by shoes that are too tight or create pressure
Hammer toes: This generally refers to the toe bending at a joint and can be caused by wearing shoes that are too tight
Janet D. Pearl, MD, MSc is the Medical Director of The Center for Morton’s Neuroma and Complete Spine and Pain Care, an interventional and integrated Pain Management program located in Framingham, Massachusetts. Previously, Dr. Pearl was the Co-Director of the Pain Management Center at St. Elizabeth’s Medical Center, where she was also the Director of the Fellowship program. She is the former Director of a satellite pain center of the Brigham and Women’s Hospital, Pain Management Center, located at the HealthSouth Braintree Rehabilitation Hospital. Dr. Pearl held academic appointments at Harvard Medical School and Tufts Medical School. She serves on the Health Care Services Board of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts Department of Industrial Accidents since 2000 as one of its physician representatives and is Chair of the Committee on Pain Management.