What Kind of Boots Are Healthiest for Your Feet?

Tips for buying the best pair for foot health
woman trying on boots at store

Boots always look great, especially now that it’s sweater weather! But to ensure you’ve got your foot health in check, your boots should feel great, too.

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Podiatrist Gina Hild, DPM, says you should take care of your feet like you would any other part of your body.

“If you think about your feet as one of the main parts of your body responsible for your mobility throughout your life, it makes sense that prioritizing your foot health really shouldn’t be compromised — no matter what age you are,” she says.

Although foot problems are largely genetic, Dr. Hild also says foot problems begin to happen as we age. Preventing these problems earlier by choosing the right shoes can help you fend off immobility issues.

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How do I know which boots are best?

Knowing which boots are best for your feet can be a walk in the park if you know the basics.​ Dr. Hild walks us through some pointers on how to choose (and how to rock) boots that are both good looking and good for your foot health.

“To start, you’ll want to look for a boot with a nice wide toe box, good arch support and side-to-side stability,” she advises.

Here are some more tips on how to choose and wear the best boots. Follow these and your feet will be forever thankful!

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The basics on buying and wearing boots

  • Test them for support. “It should not be too easy to bend a boot in half from back to front, or from side to side,” says Dr. Hild. The more support you have the less likely you’ll have an accident. Fine leather boots tend to be softer, so make sure you have enough support at the ankles and that the sole fits the arch of your foot.
  • Buy insoles to provide comfort. Do this especially if you have neuropathy of diabetes (previously referred to as diabetic neuropathy) and the nerves in your legs and feet are damaged. Add a diabetes insole to your boots to relieve pressure.
  • Choose boots with a wide toe box. Your boots shouldn’t rub against toes, hammertoes or bunions. Always bring your insole shopping to make sure boots won’t crowd your foot when they’re in place. Watch for rubbing, and check your feet frequently.
  • Choose quality materials if you can. Rain boots or non-porous materials should be flexible and not hit hard at your ankles, toes and heels. Good leather is better and more breathable. Avoid cheaper materials that don’t allow your feet to breathe, as this may cause sweating and can invite bacteria and odor issues.
  • Always change up your footwear. Avoid wearing the same boots day in and day out. Wearing certain styles for shorter periods of time reduces the impact on your feet, legs, joints and spine.
  • Try to keep them dry. If your boots get wet, dry thoroughly before putting your feet in them to prevent foot odor and to prevent you from getting sick or developing early signs of frostbite in cold weather. Make sure to keep your feet extra warm and toasty if you have Raynaud’s syndrome.

If you want to decide which boots are best for your feet and have a specific style in mind, here’s a quick guide to all the pros, cons, dos and don’ts —  from a fashion point of view.

High-heeled boots

  • These boots can tighten your heel cords and load weight onto your forefoot. They can worsen capsulitis (inflamed ligaments at the base of a toe) and neuromas (thickened nerve tissue between toes).
  • While high-heeled boots won’t cause bunions, they can make them worse.
  • Surprisingly, boots with a 1 1/2-inch or lower heel sometimes ease Achilles tendon or heel pain.

Sheepskin boots

  • Love Uggs-style boots? So do bacteria and fungus. They crave the sweaty warmth.
  • Always wear socks with these boots. When they get damp, put on a fresh pair.
  • Sheepskin boots offer zero arch support, so you’ll need to add your own arch — especially if your feet are flat.
  • Don’t share or buy sheepskin boots secondhand. You may be sharing bacteria or fungus.

Wedge booties

  • Their heels are usually high, accentuating pressure on your forefoot (ouch!).
  • Avoid wedge booties if you’re dealing with neuromas or capsulitis.
  • Wedge booties also offer no side-to-side support — a problem if your feet are flat or your ankles are unstable.

Riding boots

  • Your feet will appreciate the lower heel.
  • A rounder, extra-deep toe box makes riders a great choice if you have hammer toes or bunions.
  • But the insole is often flat and rigid, causing foot pain such as plantar fasciitis.
  • For more support, invest in shoe insoles.

Cowboy boots

  • Cowboy boots are not a good choice if you have bunions or hammer toes.
  • Their narrow toes can accentuate forefoot pain.
  • Cowboy boots without arch support can also worsen the pain of flat feet.
  • But the higher heel often helps those with plantar fasciitis or Achilles tendonitis.

“No matter which boots or shoes you choose, try to keep in mind that your feet will be your support for life,” Dr. Hild says. “Doing your best to be both functional and fashionable is always your best bet.”

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