In Western countries, shoes are a necessary part of one’s

outfit. What with there being so many different styles and types of shoes, a
bit of advice as to what’s right or wrong for a particular foot type, won’t go

Victoria Beckham’s decision to hang up her heels and don a
pair of flats has fuelled the misconception that ‘flat shoes are better than
high heels’. Apparently, Victoria attributes the wearing of her high heels to
causing bunions. This is not necessarily the case and flat shoes are not always
better, as explained below.

Since there’s so much to say about shoes, the information
below, has been categorised to make it easier to follow.

High heels v flat shoes: Whilst wearing a pair
of stiletto shoes every day is not good for your feet, neither is the wearing
of ballerina shoes or flip flops. High heeled shoes obviously put added stress
onto the ball of the foot. This irritates the joints, muscles and nerves
inside. Long term use can cause pain to develop in this area.

Ballerina’s and flip flops can be too flat
for some people. Some individuals have a foot type that will cause them to
experience lower back pain if they are standing for long periods in a flat shoe
or bare feet. If you have experienced this, opt for a shoe with a small, broad
heel. Shoes like ballerina’s or flip flops are too flimsy. They offer no
support, therefore causing the little muscles in the foot to work really hard
to try and keep the shoe on.

High heels or pointed shoes cause bunions – This
is a myth. Clinical research has shown that there tends to be a familial tendency
to developing bunions. In my previous role as an airline podiatrist, I came
across cabin crew who had worn high heels on a regular basis, yet had no
deformities. Other crew, however, who had flown for just a short period, had
large bunions. Tribal people in Africa, Australia and other continents who
don’t wear shoes at all, also often have large bunions. Obviously if you are
susceptible to developing bunions (and you’ll know if you are by looking at
your family’s feet!), wearing high heels or pointed shoes regularly, will not

Sports shoes – Sports shoe technology is so
advanced. It really does pay to wear the right shoe for the right activity.
Just as you wouldn’t wear a pair of jeans to work out in the gym, you wouldn’t
wear a pair of golf shoes to run 5 miles. Gone are the days when ‘a pair of
trainers is just a pair of trainers’. You now get shoes specifically for running,
squash, cleats for RPM, shoes for football, tennis and I even recall one
teenage patient telling me that she had special shoes for netball! Sports shoes
for specific sports have enhancements that maximise certain movements whilst
you are doing your chosen activity and help to reduce the incidence of injury.

Seasonal footwear – As the summer approaches,
you may be thinking about holidays and looking out your sandals. Flip flops are
not a proper shoe – they are fine for kicking around the house or by the pool
but don’t wear them if you’re going out for a walk. If you’re going to be more
active, opt for a pair of sandals that offer support across the top of the foot
and around the back of the heel.

During the colder months, make sure you
keep your feet warm and dry. Heat is lost through the extremities so ensure
that your shoes are leather or are proper walking shoes from an outdoor
retailer. Wearing two pairs of thin socks is a great way to keep your toes cosy!
Again, if you’re walking any distance, make sure your shoes are supportive,
having laces, straps, zips or buckles to keep your foot secure within the shoe.
If you do have laces, use them! Often I see people slipping their feet in and
out of a lace up shoe. Doing this causes the shoe to stretch. It then becomes
too loose and offers no support whatsoever.

New shoes – Try them on. Don’t order shoes on
line unless they are an exact replica of a pair you already have and are happy
with. When you do try them on, make sure you can wiggle your toes. Walk around
the shop with them on. If your heel is moving up and down the back of the shoe
or if you are scrunching up your toes, this means that they are too big. If you
are in between sizes, you can add a very thin insole. This will help them to
fit properly.

Remember that all leather stretches, so before
you opt for a smaller size or a pair of insoles, try breaking them in. Wear
them for short periods to start with, gradually increasing the wearing time.
Wearing leather shoes in the rain also helps them to stretch! If you are
purchasing a pair of slip-on or court shoes, it’s even more important to
remember that your shoes will stretch. You really don’t want to be wearing a
pair of slip-ons that are too big since your feet will have to work hard to
keep them on. With this in mind, a new pair of leather slip-ons or court shoes
must be a little bit snug to start with.

Both feet different sizes – Most people have one
foot slightly bigger than the other. If the size varies by more than ½ a UK
shoe size, I would recommend you consider getting bespoke shoes. Any difference
less than ½ a shoe size can be dealt with fairly easy. Ensure that the shoes
you like fit the largest foot. (You don’t want to be cramming your foot into a
shoe that’s too small). This will now mean that the other shoe is too big for
the smaller foot. Rectify this by placing a thin, simple insole into this show
only. Doing so will make this shoe ¼ size smaller and will therefore be more

Shoe odour – With around 250,000 sweat glands in
the feet, it’s no surprise that shoes can get a bit smelly! You can purchase
shoe fresheners, but a really simple, effective trick, is to put a little
bicarbonate of soda into a plastic bottle top and to then position this inside
your shoes overnight. If you are prone to sweaty feet, wear natural fabrics or
sports socks as opposed to synthetic fabrics (nylon stocks, for example, are
not good for your feet). Also change your socks regularly. If your skin is
itchy, you may have athlete’s foot – go and see an HCPC registered podiatrist.

And finally... dress for the occasion and aim to be
comfortable. Even I have been known to wear high heels or flip flops. I don’t
wear them every day, nor would I go out for a walk in either of them. If the
occasion arises, I will wear what I want knowing that I’m now going to cause
any long term damage. I suppose it’s like a healthy diet – if you eat the good
stuff 80-90% of the time, you can enjoy the occasional treat.

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