I was at a dance event recently where I offered people free shoe advice. I heard lots of foot related complaints. I also noticed a lot of similarities in the shoe habits of men and women who had “foot problems”. They were squeezing their feet into tiny little shoes. “My big toe joint hurts during or after dancing” was a common complaint. Whether it be the joint of the big toe, the balls of the foot, arch or heel pain, or blisters. The percentage of people I see for foot problems that are caused by misfit shoes is very high.
Since shoe fit affects foot function, the marriage between foot and shoe needs to be a harmonious one. People with foot problems are very often people with shoe problems.
Shoes should allow the foot to do its job while still protecting it from the forces of walking 10,000+ steps you take a day. During this daily venture your feet will take on many tasks.
– help propel you;
– allow you to stand up straight;
– hold excess weight;
– take you a distance equivalent to at least eight times around the world during your lifetime;
– take you to places where you can interact with others;
-help you locate furniture in the dark.
Your foot needs to act as a loose, “bag of bones” when it hits the ground to adapt to uneven surfaces. Then, your foot will absorb shock equivalent to 250% of your own body weight, at times. It will then transform itself into a rigid, propulsive lever to move you forward. Your feet perform all these functions in a fraction of a second, thousands of times over. The shoes you wear can allow, or inhibit your feet from doing these functions efficiently.
The most common trait of shoe fit that people share is…..SHORT SHOES! People are wearing shoes that aren’t long enough. There are many reasons why. Wanting to feel the shoe on your foot because of a lack of sensation, not wanting to wear a larger size, as they don’t like the number, or believing the shoe will slip off. People’s feet elongate as you gain weight. It’s only logical that one’s shoe size will increase with time, and that one’s shoes will become tighter if you don’t adjust the size.
How tight shoes affect the foot can be a through a multitude of conditions. Short shoes can bunch up your toes, causing them to curl or “claw” while wearing them, and long term use can permanently affect their shape. This position can develop corns on the tops of the toes, and calluses on the undersides of the toe pads, as well as across the balls of the foot.
Short shoes can actually contribute to bunions. They force the big toe to bend out towards the lesser toes, while at the same time putting pressure on the inside of the foot, on the big toe joint. It does this because short shoes put the widest part of the foot in a slightly narrower portion of the shoe, up towards the front. This is not the only reason why people get bunions, but it’s a sure contributor.
Short shoes can also affect how your big toe functions. When your heel lifts from the ground, your big toe raises. This is a moment when your foot must transform itself from a shock absorber, to a rigid propulsive lever. As your big toe lifts, it triggers a mechanism in your foot that raises your arch, locking the joints in the mid-foot, and prepare the foot to become rigid. If your shoe is short, then the big toe joint (which is the hinge that raises the big toe) will not line up with the bending point of the shoe. This can restrict your big toe from raising when it must, and the foot will then not be an effective rigid lever when it needs to be. The result is a foot that stays in its shock absorbing state at a time when it should be rigid. Joints of the mid-foot are more flexible at this moment and can strain. Muscles, attached to bone via tendons in the lower leg must then work overtime to compensate. Excessive strain of muscles, tendons, or ligaments can only occur for so long and remain pain-free. It’s important to have your shoes fit your feet so they can perform as they were designed.