The Effects of Improper Shoe Gear
By Dawn Michels, D.P.M.
When I was a kid I remember asking my dad for a pair of Nike high-top shoes for basketball. His answer was, "When I played sports in high school I had one pair of Converse shoes that I wore for basketball, baseball and everything in between." He failed to mention the countless ankle sprains and fractures that he suffered that resulted in multiple operations and a closet full of crutches!
Today there is a specific shoe made for every activity from biking to step-aerobics, but this doesn''t stop people from purchasing the wrong shoes, which may lead to injuries. Some of the most common mistakes people make are buying only one brand of shoe because they heard it was the best, buying the wrong size and buying at the wrong time of day.
• Buying only one name brand - Everyone''s foot structure is different, there is not one shoe that will accommodate every foot.
• Buying by size - A lot of people will buy a pair of shoes because they have always worn a certain size, when in fact, many manufacturers use different scales to determine their shoe size.
• Buying at the wrong time of day - Our feet swell throughout the day so if you buy shoes in the morning, they may be too small by the afternoon.
RESULTS OF WEARING THE WRONG SIZE
1. Too short - May lead to nail conditions such as ingrown toenails, contusion of the nail (nail turns black), permanent nail deformity or loss of entire nail.
2. Too tight - May cause irritation and damage to the nerves on the top of the foot; may aggravate foot deformities such as bunions and hammertoes, which can lead to ulcerations on the feet.
3. Too big or worn out - The lack of support may exacerbate tendinitis and heel pain and may lead to a stress fracture; slipping can occur within the shoe, which may result in blisters; and tripping can lead to sprains and fractures of the foot or ankle.
HOW TO BUY SHOES
1. Go shoe shopping at the end of the day when your feet may be swollen and tired. This way you will be sure that the shoe will fit in the morning and the afternoon.
2. Always try shoes on with the type of socks you will be wearing for that activity. Don''t try on gym shoes with your dress socks and vice versa.
3. If you have inserts, orthotics or a brace for activity, make sure to wear it and place it in the shoe when trying on. Always remove the original shoe insert when wearing orthotics.
4. Length of the shoe: When standing you should have one thumbnails width between the longest toe and the end of the shoe. Anything less is too short (unless it is a ballet shoe).
5. Always try both shoes on and walk around the store. Better yet, you should perform the activity you will be doing in those shoes. Many shoe stores have treadmills so you can run in the shoes before you buy them.
6. There is no "break-in" period. If the shoe is tight in the store, do not buy it! It will still be tight later.
7. Always ask about the return policy so you are not stuck with a painful, expensive shoe that you feel obligated to wear.
And remember, the average person takes 8-10,000 steps per day. We need to purchase new shoes every 400-500 miles, just like we buy new tires every 40-50,000 miles. Shoes do not have an infinite life span!
Dawn Michels, D.P.M. is an associate with American College of Foot and Ankle Surgeons. She is in private practice with Foot and Ankle Specialists in St. Matthews and New Albany. Please address inquiries to 502-895-3840.
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