image LifeStyle

Opening the Doors to Healthier and Stress-Free Living

A Column by Alice Abbott-Moore,
Content Access/Information Delivery Teams, Ekstrom Library

If the Shoe Doesn't Fit ... Don't Wear It!

Recently, I discovered that all of my athletic shoes had lost their oomph and that I needed to procure a new pair or two. A couple of years ago, it used to be easier for me to find shoes. But since then, the brand that I like to wear no longer makes the style that fit my feet the best. Ever since I lost weight four years ago, I have had a harder time finding shoes that fit. When I was heavier, my feet seemed to be about the same width from toe to heel. But since I dropped the weight, during the past four years, my feet have undergone a gradual physical change to a very, very narrow heel with a wider toe box. Also, I thought that my feet had gotten a bit shorter.

So, my husband suggested that I get professionally fitted. Poor guy, he was probably tired of my complaining about how I have so much shoe trouble. He knew of a place in St. Matthews, called Footworks, that fits people for shoes. My oldest sister suggested that we go to this store. She had a great experience with the store since the folks there were able to find shoes for one of her children who also has hard-to-fit feet. My sister also mentioned to me, since I am a girl on a budget, that the prices weren’t any more than the other athletic stores.

It was an omen—it was meant be for me to have my pods measured and fitted.

We went straight to the store. It seemed as if everyone else had the same idea; the store was crowded with people—a good sign, actually. The gentleman who waited on me measured both my feet, looked for any problems that he could see, looked at my old shoes, asked me what my history was with athletic shoes, and how I would use the shoes.

My history is that I have always had big feet. When I was five years old, I was wearing ladies’ size five shoes. By the time I was in the 8th grade my feet had grown into a size 11 shoe. My mother had a heck of a time to try to keep me in shoes. At the time, there weren’t too many large- sized shoes and styles for adults to choose from, much less for a 13-year-old. My feet were a subject of teasing for my brothers and other kids. Names like “Clod-hopper” and “Sasquatch” were some of the monikers given to me. I was offered jobs to kick down barn doors and other dense barriers. My tube socks were never safe because my older brothers borrowed them. I hated the fact that my feet were bigger than all of the women in my family, as well as the feet of all my friends’ and boyfriends. And, yes, I even once tried to water ski without skis, but it tickled too much. I don’t think that I started to make peace with my feet until a good friend of mine, Clara, who was like a grandmother to me, told me: “You’re a tall girl, you need a good foundation.”

Since my feet were so large and finding little girls-style shoes in a large size was impossible, I was allowed to wear high heels early in life. I started to wear wedge heels when I was 12 years old. When I was 14, I inherited from an older sister a pair of sling open-toed three-inch platform shoes. Okay, so my early teen years were during the Disco Age! Once, when I got caught for cutting Sunday School by the youth director of the church’s youth group, she thought it was her duty to catch me and drag me to class. She didn’t catch me and I was in my three-inch heels. Afterwards, I was able to tend to my original plan of enjoying some doughnuts over at Heitzman’s Bakery in the Douglas Loop. I have a friend who witnessed that event. I must have made quite an impression because he still talks about how this girl could run in her high heels.

But when it came to proper shoes for exercise, it wasn’t until a couple of years ago that I had a pair of athletic shoes that really felt good to me. Before then I wore a lot of moccasins and deck shoes. I had one off- brand pair of running shoes that my mom bought for me in the 8th grade that lasted until the 10th grade. I loved those things and cried when I had to throw them away. I never was able to find shoes like them again. Two years go this past summer when I had to go to the podiatrist for a foot problem, he pointed out that I needed shoes with a wider toe-box (since I had corns). So, with that information, I discovered an Adidas running shoe—the Galaxy. That pair of shoes provided comfort I hadn’t experienced since I was in the 10th grade. For many years before, I put up with wonderful brand name, high-tech athletic shoes that did not feel so good. In fact, sometimes it was more comfortable for me to run barefoot. As I was telling my shoe history, one of the other workers in the store, who was sitting nearby, winced when she overheard me telling that little tidbit.

Nevertheless, after hearing my history and looking at my feet, the salesman pointed out that I had been wearing shoes too short for my feet. My second toes are longer than my other toes, (which is fairly common) and I had been scrunching them. As a result, my toes are starting to buckle. So, I need to be wearing longer shoes.

I thought my feet were unusual, but I learned while being fitted that most women have feet shaped like mine: narrower heels with wider toe-boxes. The reason why my feet have been hard to fit was due to the fact that I do not carry weight at all in my feet, and that my feet are considered thin feet due to their depth or, rather, lack of. This discovery solved the mystery of why most shoes I have tried on did not feel comfortable.

That night, I went home and went through all my shoes. Out of 35 pairs of shoes in my closet, ten pairs (28%) were ill-fitting mainly because they weren’t long enough. I reached inside them and felt partial holes where my second toes had tried to break out. In some of them, my second toes had forced the stitching to become loose on the outside of the shoes! Out of the shoes, many had pointy toe boxes. Not too many pairs of the shoes were high-heeled since I gave up wearing high-heels years ago.

I believe that many women’s feet are in bad shape largely due to ill-fitting shoes. A lot of the damage is due to high heels and pointy-toed shoes, which are merciless on feet. Such shoes may look pretty, but they abuse feet and prepare them for pain later in life. But also, at least in my generation and earlier, girls and ladies were told that smaller feet were prettier, so many of us forced our feet into smaller shoes.

If I may offer a suggestion, get professionally measured and fitted at least once and find out what you need to look for when selecting shoes. It may cost a little more than you usually pay, but the information and product(s) you receive are well worth it. We are lucky to have a few places here in town who fit people’s feet. Everyone’s feet are unique with different needs. When it comes to your feet, do take care. Your feet should last you a lifetime. The care you take today will make a difference now as well as in later life.

Within the past week, I discovered that my favorite brand and style of athletic shoe is still available, and I have bought two new pairs. I also bought a pair of hiking boots. All these shoes are in a size 10 and, you know, they all feel so good…

My pods are now happy…

If your feet are experiencing some discomfort, see this chart may help you to determine the problem and find a solution:

Problem Symptoms Cause
Tired, aching feet Dull or throbbing pain, cramping Long hours standing or walking; inadequate foot support or cushioning; tight, poorly-fitted or high-heeled shoes
Corns Painful, round, kernel-like areas Dead cell build up from pressure or friction; shoes worn too tight or too loose around toes
Callouses Thick, hard, reddish-yellow skin on soles of feet Dead cell build up from pressure or friction; shoes too tight or too loose
Heel pain Pain, redness, swelling, heat Strained muscles; incorrect movement while exercising; poorly fitted or worn-out shoes; obesity; aging; inadequate foot support
Athlete's foot Burning, itching, cracking and discomfort Fungal infection from walking barefoot in warm, moist places; foot perspiration; poor shoe ventilation
Lower back/Leg/Knee pain Dull or throbbing pain; ache in lower back, leg or knee Over rotation of foot when running or walking;improper foot support
Foot odor and/or wetness Perspiration and/or odor Tight shoes; shoes worn for long periods of time or during intense exercise and/or heat
Dry/Rough Skin Dry appearing skin; rough skin surface Dry or cold climate. Some folks are prone to have dry skin
Source: Dr. Scholl's Diagnostic Chart