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What to Look For in a Shoe if You Have Foot Pain

what to look for in a shoe if you have foot pain

When you're dealing with persistent foot pain, buying a new pair of shoes can be a daunting chore. Choosing the right pair of shoes goes beyond style and function, as what you wear on your feet can play a big role in relieving some of that discomfort and even work to correct it, or conversely, make things worse.

So what should you look for if you suffer from common foot-related ailments like plantar fasciitis? While your foot's structure and degree of pronation may affect how a shoe fits and feels, there are some general rules of thumb to follow when looking for a new pair. So while you shop, look for the following:

shoes with laces 1. Shoes with laces
rather than slip-ons, so you can tighten the shoe to fit snuggly on your foot, offering more support.
shoes with closed heels and strong arch support 2. Closed heels & strong arch support
especially if you suffer from plantar fasciitis. Ditch the flip flops and open back shoes.
shoes for your activity of choice 3. Shoes made for your activity of choice
If you're an athlete, chances are that there are shoes specifically designed for your sport (e.g. running, cross-training, hiking, walking).
shoes with firm heel counter 4. A firm heel counter
or the back of the shoe that covers the heel. This controls the foot's pronation and should be firm when squeezed. If it's soft and collapses with pressure, it likely won't provide the foot and ankle support you need.
shoes with firm sole 5. A firm sole
Though your instinct may be to choose a flexible sole for comfort, a firm sole will provide more support, controlling your foot's range of motion and aligning your foot and ankle.
6. An elevated heel with a rocker sole (and we're not talking high heels!):
shoes with forefoot rocker sole A forefoot rocker sole curves up at the front of the shoe, reducing pressure under the ball of the foot and limiting motion in the toe joints. It's a great solution for arthritis in the big toe and pain in the ball of the foot.
shoes with heel to toe rocker sole A shoe with a heel to toe rocker sole curves up at both the toe and heel to limit ankle and midfoot motion and enable the foot to roll faster off the heel. This is ideal for ankle or midfoot arthritis as well as plantar fasciitis.

Some tips when trying on your new pair

  • Be sure to try them on both feet. It's likely that your feet are not exactly the same size so you want to avoid one shoe feeling too snug or too loose.
  • Give yourself a extra half an inch between your longest toe and the tip of the shoe.
  • Don't count on your shoes stretching. They should fit properly from the start.
  • Add an orthotic or insert to customize the support to your needs.

At the end of the day, fit, cushion and support are the name of the game; style has its place, but your health and comfort should always come first. Of course, a podiatrist will be able to provide a trusted diagnosis and advise treatment, so be sure to seek a professional opinion if you've been recently injured or are experiencing prolonged discomfort.

anatomy of a shoe
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Related Articles:
What is Plantar Fasciitis + 4 Tips for Relief
What Causes Chronic Foot Pain?
7 Tips to Manage Chronic Foot Pain
How Do I Tell if I'm Wearing the Right Shoe Size?
What is Over-Pronation?

Frequently Asked Questions:

  Q. What is Plantar Fasciitis?

A. One of the most common foot ailments, it's helpful to identify what is causing strain to effectively treat plantar fasciitis. Here's what to look for.

Read more here

  Q. What is the Plantar Fascia?

A. Find out why this fibrous tissue is so important to your feet, and how overuse can become a serious pain.

Read more here

  Q. What is the Wet Foot Test?

A. Take this two-step test to find out your arch type!

Read more here

  Q. What is Pronation?

A. Pronation is the natural process that helps to provide shock absorption as you walk or run. Learn how it works.

Read more here

  Q. What is Over-Pronation?

A. A While a certain amount of pronation is necessary, over-pronation can lead to painful injuries, like these...

Read more here

  Q. What is Supination?

A. Supination is a natural process that allows us to walk and run properly. Learn how it works.

Read more here

  Q. What are Shin Splints?

A. While "shin splints" is not a medical diagnosis, the discomfort being experienced is likely indicative of one.

Read more here

  Q. What is a Bunion?

A. We've all heard our grandmothers talk about them before, but what actually is a bunion?

Read more here

  Q. What is Achilles tendonitis?

A. The Achilles tendon is your best friend when it comes to walking, running, and jumping, so inflammation of it can be a real pain. Find out more.

Read more here

  Q. What is Metatarsalgia?

A. Metatarsalgia is a fancy word for pain in the ball of the foot. Find out what causes this discomfort, and how to treat it.

Read more here

  Q. What are Flat Feet?

A. Fallen arches, also knows as flat feet, refers to an abnormal foot arch, and may be the reason for your foot pain.

Read more here

  Q. What is Arthritis?

A. Find out how arthritis, including gout, can cause foot pain, especially in the big toe.

Read more here

  Q. What is Gout?

A. A form of arthritis, gout most commonly occurs in the big toe. Learn more about what causes this inflammatory condition.

Read more here

  Q. What is Hammer Toe?

A. Often caused by wearing tight shoes, a hammer toe is a painful abnormality. Here's what to look for.

Read more here

  Q. What is Claw Toe?

A. Often a result of nerve damage, a claw toe is a painful abnormality. Here's what to look for.

Read more here

  Q. What is an Ingrown Toenail?

A. Ingrown toenails are a pain, and can be caused by injury, ill-fitting shoes, or improper foot care. Learn how to avoid them.

Read more here

  Q. What's a heel counter?

A. The heel counter controls the foot's pronation, and is key to providing foot and ankle support. Find out what to look for.

Read more here

  Q. What's a shoe's sole?

A. Every shoe has a sole, which provides protection from the ground with each step. Learn what to look for to get the support you need.

Read more here

  Q. What's a rocker sole shoe?

A. A rocker sole shoe (aka a rocker bottom shoe) is a type of shoe that has a thicker sole with a rounded heel. Learn more about the two types of rocker soles.

Read more here

  Q. What makes a shoe or boot slip-resistant?

A. Slip resistance is determined by a shoe's outsole design, material, and tread pattern...

Read more here