By Dr. Palak Dengla
Shoes are facilitators to health and fitness. We almost walk 5 times the circumference of the earth in an average lifetime. Yet we seldom pay attention to our feet and footwear despite of them bearing the entire body weight and primary mover of human body. Most of us in developing nations prefer having a single pair of shoes to serve all purposes of walking, running, gym activities, etc. But believe it or not, it is crucial to not defeat the purpose of different shoes according to the sport biomechanics and agility required.
Indispensable prerequisites for right pair of shoes are:
a) Stability: good stability and cushioning throughout the range of movement of walk
b) Flexibility: shoes should provide with an easy push off phase (basically toe off phase of the walk)
c) Comfort: the shoe should adequately fit especially around the heel and the mid foot with some room for toe off in the forefoot.
It is quality rather than quantity that matters when choosing the right shoes. Proper walking shoes are fundamental in maintaining correct walking technique, as well as preventing injuries. It maintains proper bio mechanics of the foot as well as all the other joints connected to the foot while walking. The benefits of a scientifically designed comfortable shoe surely outnumbers the cost of investment around it. Repetitive issues of acute or chronic episodes of musculoskeletal issues of back pain, knee pain, foot pain, in fact even neck pain and headaches would come down if a wrong shoe was a cause for them. In my clinical practice of almost 12 plus years, many a times, a simple footwear modification results into immediate relief of chronic knee and back issues.
The right pair of shoes help keep your body safe from injury. Shoes are undoubtedly facilitators to fitness. Without the correct fuel, you are likely to damage the engine of a car, similarly, without the right fit of shoe, you are further prone to suffer with severe injuries. Good quality shoes made for wearers’ feet provide unique fit, and comfort. Every shoe breaks after constant usage as it ages. But good quality shoes are built to last and stand the test of time. Research shows that good footwear determines an individual’s attitude as well. In my personal experience, I can easily walk for miles in my right fit walking shoes unlike when asked to walk even for a kilometer in my sneakers.
Whenever a patient comes to doctors with any kind of head-to-toe issue, the first thing we check is his foot arch and the correspondingly worn shoe. 95% of the times they are a misfit, and thus a change of the footwear immediately helps relieve the pain drastically by 30-40%.
What harm can a wrong pair of shoes do to the body
We can differentiate the wrong pattern of shoes.
• Tight pointed shoes may cause corns, bunions and other toe deformities such as hammer and claw toes, cross-over toes, ingrown toenails. Great chances of falls in elderly due to wrongly fit shoe.
• High heels can cause back pain, headaches, ankle injuries sprains and plantar fasciitis.
• Wearing flat surfaces shoes, with little to no arch support, keeps the feet from functioning optimally and can lead to knee, hip, and back problems. Lack of arch support is the commonest cause of a painful heel condition called as plantar fasciitis advancing into a calcaneal spur at times.
• Wearing a misfit footwear forces the joints of the body to compensate for the faulty foot angulators leading to a long term functional and structural and change in the body. Thus, after logging between 300 to 400 miles in your walking shoes, it is better to buy a new pair of shoes.
How to select the right shoes
The human feet tend to swell up as the day progresses, consequently the foot is bigger in the evening compared to earlier in the day, thus measure your foot size later in the day. Try the shoes with the type of socks that you wear on regular basis. As e-com is growing leaps and bounds, we are highly tempted to buy cheaper available options to look trendier on regular basis. But when it comes to feet, quality of shoes matters more over the number of them stacked in the wardrobe.
While buying shoes, stand and check your feet size, as your foot will go for maximum stretch in this position. When you move your ankle up/ down, in and out, the shoe should not come out. You should be able to move your toe up and down. Adequate padding is required at the same time a snug fit over heel and midfoot helps to walk those miles at ease. A quick way to assess one’s arch is stamp on wet sand or draw your foot on a piece of paper. One can get a fair idea about the arch pattern.
*Dr. Palak Dengla is HOD Physiotherapy, Aster RV Hospital