Spring is upon us! And what a good feeling that is. More sunshine, theoretically warmer weather (although it always seems to take longer than we think!) and more outdoor activities!
What isn’t a good feeling…are your feet hurting because you picked the wrong shoes for your feet?!
I know when the weather warms up, we (me too!) start to immediately think about freeing those feet and wearing sandals. However, not all shoes, and sandals are created equal. There is a reason your physical therapist tells you to wear good shoes.
Our feet are the first contact with the ground and that affects everything in our body (our legs, trunk, arms and neck!). Wearing proper shoes that support the feet can and do affect the knee or low back pain you might be having. In the same line of thinking, bad shoes can have a big negative impact on the body part you have been working so hard to heal.
So Where to Start in Picking Out Shoes?
Think about the activity. You should absolutely have different shoes for different activities. Even if it is the same shoe and model, it will help evenly distribute the wear (we will talk about what to look for later) and tear on the shoes, keeping them in peak condition for longer.
While it seems redundant to have two pairs of running shoes, having one for trail running and one for road running not only allows you to tweak it to meet the need of the activity, but it also allows:
Second, where to purchase them? In these days of ordering off the internet, you may think buying shoes is as easy as clicking “add to cart”. This is a terrible idea. Why?
You aren’t just picking out a shoe based on color and size. When you go to a running store, they assess you barefoot, in your current shoes AND in the shoe options you are considering.
The number one thing to do is go to a store that will analyze your walking and running
Things to consider:
Most shoe brands have a low stability, middle stability and high stability model that helps to address the different needs of a foot
The most important thing is getting the right shoe for your foot that is as flexible as possible (that your foot can work with)!
What We Haven’t Talked About Yet is Orthotics!
Orthotics are inserts ranging in length (just under the heel as a heel lift, to the middle of your foot, and all the way to the toes), rigidity and customization.
If your shoes are old, start first with replacing them, and then adding in new orthotics. Depending on the style, these could end up being replaced around the same time as your shoes.
The exception to this are the slipper cast which are typically a very rigid orthotic and designed to last a few years (and shoes absolutely are not meant to work that long!).
We have mentioned about the need to change your shoes and to look for wear and tear. But what does that exactly mean?
When you do get new shoes, the best thing to do is to systematically retire shoes before they get to a super worn-down state. This is typically between 300-500 miles. That sounds like a lot right?
But if you go for a 2 mile walk every day, that is about 14 miles per week, which is 56 miles per month, meaning every 6-9 months you should be retiring shoes. Mark it on the calendar!
Or check your milage log on your GPS app for a more accurate idea of the miles you put on your shoes. Once you have a shoe that works well for you, this is a situation where you could order the same shoe model and size offline (or even 2 pairs when a sale is going on!).
We have talked a lot about athletic shoes but not as much about other shoe options, which absolutely deserve some attention. The most problematic shoes we see at Breakaway are worn out athletic shoes (which we already covered), flip flops (well sandals in general) and heels.
Sandals have so many subsets of styles these days, but most don’t provide enough support. Is there a place for a more fashionable sandal…when you aren’t doing a lot of walking or standing, or a super special event?!
In the spring and summer when you want to wear a cooler shoe consider Birkenstocks or a similar equivalent. They are no longer just for hippies! But for stylish individuals who want to take care of their body. I have a pair that I got from Target last year that held up very well (I got two pairs), for about $25.
Support and style do not always have to be expensive. Part of the reason flip flops are such a bad shoe (if you can even call them that, maybe foot accessory is a better term!) is they typically have no arch support, and very little strapping to keep them on your foot.
This often results in unique compensations to help “grip” and keep them attached to you and not in the middle of the street as you run into the store (is that just me that has happened to?!)
As we talked about earlier, these kinds of changes have carry-over to other areas of the body, up the entire spine. Heels, like sandals have a place in different circumstances.
Minimal standing and walking, a special event, overall, very limited use. Also, be mindful of the heel height. A shoe with a 1-inch heel and open toes is very different from 3-inch heels that have a closed, pointy toe.
How about those cute, fashionable boots?
These, as do all shoes, vary widely. Some have heels, some are flatter, some go high over the ankle and others just barely cover the ankle. One of the reasons I bring this shoe up (while not typically a spring shoe) is that it has the option to provide some extra support and compression to an injured ankle (think a hiking boot).
But the trade for a lot of boots is the weight of them. They tend to be heavy! Which also affects how we move and place our foot, and say it with me, affects the rest of the body up the entire spine.
Do You Have Questions About Your Shoes?
Are you trying to figure out if the sneakers your best friend swears by are actually good for you?
Ask your physical therapist at your next appointment!
Better yet, if you feel limited by your body (and possibly your shoes) in anyway, reach out to Breakaway Physical Therapy, to see what we can do to get you back on the right foot! (or the left one!).
Call us at 410-721-6333 to enjoy walking, running and being active again!