The Do’s and Don’ts of Shoe Shopping

Pick shoes that are good for your feet — and overall health

When it comes to shoes, some women will shop till they drop for the perfect pump, and many men would rather wear the same classic pair of sneakers forever. But neither group has it quite right, says Georgeanne Botek, DPM, a Cleveland Clinic podiatric surgeon.

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Dr. Botek shares tips for choosing shoes that are good for your feet — and your overall health.

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    DO try running shoes

    “Most companies put a lot of their technology into the running shoe,” Dr. Botek says. Better technology means better support for your feet. Running shoes also have more styles designed specifically for people with high arches as well as those with flat feet.

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    DON’T stick with soft soles and sandals

    Flat or soft-soled shoes can lead to heel pain and plantar fasciitis (pain in the bottom of your feet). Shoes that expose your skin can lead to calluses, dry skin, fissuring or cracking. Look for shoes that cover your feet and have firm soles. “You shouldn’t be able to squeeze your shoe like an accordion,” Dr. Botek advises.

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    DO pick shoes shaped like your feet

    The toe box should be rounded or oval to mirror the shape of your feet. If the toe box is too narrow, it can aggravate bunions and cause corns or a pinched nerve. There should be a fingertip of length between your longest toe and the tip of the shoe, Dr. Botek says.

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    DON’T wear too-high heeled shoes

    High heels put pressure on the metatarsal bones in the balls of the feet, as well as your lower back. Over time, wearing high heeled shoes also functionally shorten the muscles and tendons in the back of your legs. So how high is too high? Dr. Botek advises looking for heels less than 2 inches. If you do wear ultra-high heels, avoid wearing them on consecutive days or for longer than four hours at a time.

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    DO protect your feet as they age

    The qualities of a good shoe become even more important as you age. For example, as feet age, they lose some of the fat pad that provides natural cushioning, so Dr. Botek suggests older individuals wear shoes or slippers around the house for extra protection.

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    DON’T wear the same shoes forever

    How often should you replace your shoes? It depends on how much you stand and walk in them. You need to replace your primary walking shoes at least once a year, Dr. Botek says, but if you are active, you may need to replace athletic shoes every three to six months.

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    DO try on new shoes

    To find shoes that truly fit, try them on. Shoe sizes aren’t universal across different brands. For better results, try them on at the end of the day because feet swell after daily use. If you’re an online shopper, be sure to try shoes on when you receive them — and don’t be afraid to return them if they don’t fit well.

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    DON’T settle for sore feet

    If your feet hurt when you get home from work, don’t just chalk it up to a long day. If you regularly experience foot pain, call your doctor. “Foot pain is not normal,” Dr. Botek says. Some patients fear complicated surgeries, but she says that treatment can be simple: “We often suggest surgery on your shoes before your feet.”

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