Most Americans – up to 75 percent -- have foot pain at sometime in their lives and shoes are often the source. As summer starts, good footwear choices can help keep your feet injury and pain free. “Your feet support your entire body weight and when they’re crammed into too-small shoes or those that don’t have proper support, it’s no surprise that they will hurt,” said Megan Herbert, PT, DPT, ATC, Cert MDT, Athletico Physical Therapy assistant facility manager. “We help many patients alleviate foot pain, but avoiding problems in the first place is even better.”
Athletico suggests the following safe footwear tips for flip flops, heels and flats.
-Flip flops fail your feet: The popular summer fashion statement is often an easy and affordable choice but often offers your feet little no support. If you can’t resist:
-Choose a sole that has more support: Look for a flip flop that you can’t wring like a wash cloth when you twist it. A stronger sole that provides some support for the arch of your foot helps keep all your joints from your knees to your back aligned.
-Look for a back sling: Walking around in flip flops forces you to hold the shoe on by scrunching your toes – which can cause plantar fasciitis, a painful condition of the bottom of the foot. Sling backs help keep the shoe on your foot without using your toes and reducing your chances of getting the condition. o Spring for new flip flops: Chances are your flip flops from last year are paper thin after a summer of wear – meaning zero support. Look for a new pair that cups in the heel area and keeps its shape when compressed. This supports your heel bone and allows proper shock absorption, minimizing the risk of stress fractures and heel pain.
-Or just forget the flip flop: Opt for sandals instead. Many of them are designed to maintain the normal mechanics of the foot. Look for a firm sole, arch support and slight cupping around the heel.
-High heels – look nice, poor fit: High heels may look fabulous, but your feet won’t feel great after you wear them for even a short time.
-Be sure they’re 2 inches or less: The higher the heel, the more pressure on the ball of your foot. In two-inch heels, 50 percent of your body weight is being absorbed through the ball of your foot. Increase it by just an inch, and it’s 75 percent.
-Look for rounded toes and leather soles: Gravity crams your toes forward in heels, a problem made worse when the toe box comes to a point. Leather soles will prevent your foot from slipping forward as much, and a round or square toe box gives your toes room to move, minimizing the chance of hammer toes, bunions, calluses, blisters and nerve injuries.
-Buy shoes in the afternoon: Feet swell as the day goes on and studies show they’re the largest in the afternoon so footwear shopping in the afternoon or evening can help you avoid getting a pair that is too small.
-Stretch, stretch, stretch: If you must wear heels, stretch your calves and your feet before and after wearing them. Sit in a chair with your legs straight in front of you, bending over and grabbing your toes, pulling them towards you for 30 seconds. Do this three times. If you can’t reach your toes, use a towel to wrap around the ball of your foot and pull it towards you.
-Flats can be almost as bad as a flip flop or heels. Flats don’t bend your feet in an unnatural angle like high heels do, but they often don’t offer much support either. Thankfully, you can buy arch support inserts that are as thin as a credit card and easily can be inserted into your flats. Look for support that maintains its shape when bent in half.
If you experience any foot pain despite good footwear choices, stop by your local Athletico facility for a complimentary injury screening. There a trained physical therapist can analyze your injury and determine the next steps to get you back on your feet pain-free. For more information or to find the facility closest to you, visit Athletico.com.