Right fit will keep you on the right foot
FOOTWEAR is an essential part of every working professional's attire, and ill-fitting shoes can cause any number of problems, from corns and blisters to bunions, hammer toes and ingrown toenails.
One old wives' tale says that when you get new shoes, you should bite them before they bite you. Here are some simple tips you can consider instead when you are choosing shoes.
You might not realise it but most people have one foot that is larger or wider than the other.
Trying out shoes in different styles and sizes can help you determine which of your feet is bigger. When you make your final selection, be sure to pick a size that will accommodate the larger foot.
At the shoe store, ask if they have equipment for measuring the length and width of your feet.
Having accurate measurements will help you choose the most appropriate shoes.
Even timing matters! Feet can swell after a few hours of walking, so buy shoes later in the day, to make sure you get a better fit.
Keep in mind the hosiery or the socks that you will wear with the shoes.
For sports shoes and school shoes, take your own socks along so you can wear them while trying out the shoes.
The same applies to foot orthotics or insoles.
GETTING A GOOD FIT
You might not be sure what the best fit is, or what you should consider when choosing shoes. Here are some rules of thumb you can follow.
First, make sure your heels are sitting snugly at the back of the shoe's heel. Then, check that your longest toe is at least a thumb's width away from the front of the shoe.
The widest part of the foot is usually across the balls of the feet. To check that the toe area of the shoe is wide enough, see if you can wriggle your toes freely. Do not buy shoes that pinch or that are too small.
It is a misconception that shoes will stretch over time to accommodate your feet. They should feel comfortable when you put them on at the shop and while you walk around in them - if they don't, don't buy them.
CHOOSING THE SHOE TYPE
When you are choosing footwear, you must carefully consider the type and style of the shoe - not just because you want to look good, but also because you want to keep your feet healthy.
Never sacrifice comfort for appearance. Here are some points you should bear in mind.
If you are getting slip-on shoes, look for ones with shoe fasteners, such as straps with velcro or buckles, that run across the foot (close to the ankle). Shoes with such fasteners will help hold your feet in place.
If the shoes have laces, they will also help secure your foot.
For open-toe shoes, try to get ones with straps that secure around the heels.
If possible, choose shoes that are made from leather or that come with a mesh layer, to allow your feet to "breathe".
It is best to have two pairs of shoes for work, so you can rotate them. Doing so will give you time to air the shoes properly, which can help reduce the risk of a fungal infection.
Women, in particular, need to pay attention to their choice of footwear. Many are willing to squeeze their feet into shoes that are too tight or have overly high heels because they look more stylish. It is thus not surprising that women tend to suffer more foot-related problems than men.
Women whose jobs require them to walk or stand for more than three hours a day should consider wearing lower heels - no more than 2-3cm high.
Higher heels affect the natural body alignment, which could put unnecessary strain on the lower back and cause the calf muscles to shorten.
In addition, high-heeled shoes cause the foot to slide forward. You end up cramping your toes, which could lead to hammer toes, thickened toenails, stress fractures, callouses, sprains, bunions and joint pain.
Do not be fooled by wedges either - they are as damaging to your feet as stilettos.
If you are going for a sensible pair of shoes, the heels should be no higher than 2-3cm, and thick rubber soles will help absorb ground reaction forces. The back of the shoes should be slightly firmer, which will provide more stability, and the area that holds the balls of your feet should offer enough flexibility.
For added support and stability, look for shoes with fasteners that go around the foot.
With the right fit, you will be able to move around happily and painlessly, and have fewer problems to worry about in the future.
The writer is a senior podiatrist in the collaborative care department of the clinical services division at the National Healthcare Group Polyclinics