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Healthy Living

The Girls' Guide to Pain-Free Feet

By Sheryl Kraft

Created: 08/12/2013
Last Updated: 08/12/2013

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This summer has brought out a variety of shoe styles. Rainy days (and there have been lots of them!) preclude me from wearing sandals (unless I want soaked feet). And on the hot, humid days, wearing the wrong sandals can cause swollen feet to feel misplaced in even the most comfortable pair.

Suddenly it seems like foot problems are an epidemic. Lately, everyone I talk to l has a foot story to share—a bump here that precludes them from wearing their favorite flats, a pain there that makes getting out of bed in the morning an excruciating challenge.

What gives?

If you're anything like me—and my bet is that you are—then I'm sure you're a cranky mess if your feet hurt. I can't count the times I've been caught in too-tight shoes, shoes that rub my feet the wrong way and cause painful blisters to erupt, shoes that are too flat, too high, too tight, too loose—too ill-fitting to warrant anything but throwing them in the trash.

And to make matters worse, it's not only your mood that can suffer from the wrong shoes, it's your feet. The wrong fit, or shoe, can cause painful, stubborn and hard-to-treat conditions like plantar fasciitis, ingrown toenails, corns and calluses.

Here are some common offenders—and ways to put your foot down and say NO to foot pain:

Sandals

Gladiator and strappy sandals might look great, but beware of the havoc they may cause: irritation between your toes and calluses around your heels.

When shopping for sandals, look for natural materials (like soft, pliable leather). Make sure the sandals fit properly. Sounds obvious, I know, but it's easy to fall head over heels for a style or be tempted by a half-off sale. Resist the urge to buy the wrong size—they'll never be comfortable. Buy them too small and your heel can hang over the edge and you may suffer abrasions. Buy them too large and your feet won't get the proper support they need.

Ankle-wrap sandals are cute, right? Well, yes, but proceed with caution. They don't offer the best support. If you're walking on uneven surfaces, your ankle can easily twist. And the friction from the ankle strap can rub you the wrong way. The result: painful blisters.

No need to give up on this style, though. Choose ankle wraps made of a soft material like leather, cotton or satin, and make sure not to buckle or tie the strap too tight.

Wedges or espadrilles can also cause your ankle to twist if they're too high. Go for a wider, flatter wedge, and a rubber sole that provides traction can keep you steady on your feet. The platform should be beneath the front of the foot, with a lower incline in the heel so that your weight is better distributed.

Flip-flops have their place but can overstay their welcome. While they offer basic protection to the bottom of your foot if you're walking around a pool or warm surface during the summer (they can also help prevent you from contracting athlete's foot or plantar warts in public showers), beware of their lack of arch support. What can follow: heel pain from lack of cushioning, twisted or sprained ankles and even tendinitis and other potentially painful conditions like plantar fasciitis (see below).

Shoes

Flats look stylish under the right circumstances—but be careful to make sure the shoe has adequate cushioning or arch support. Without it, you can be prone to a type of heel pain known as plantar fasciitis (PLAN-tur fas-e-I-tis), an inflammation of the thick band of tissue that runs along the bottom of your foot, connecting your heel bones to your toes.

Pointy-toed shoes make me wonder if they're worth it. Ingrown toenails, hammertoes, bunions, calluses and corns … oh, my. I can personally attest to a very painful condition called Morton's neuroma, often caused by those fashionable-looking pointy-toed shoes or footwear with a narrow toe box. Constricting shoes like this can pinch the nerve between the toes, resulting in discomfort and extreme pain, as if you're stepping down onto a hard rock every time you take a step.

Stay one step ahead of foot pain with these tips:

  • Have your feet measured. Foot sizes can, and do, change.
  • Buy for the larger foot. All feet are not created equal.
  • Bring along an insole while shopping. It may be just what you need to make the shoe fit comfortably.
  • Don't convince yourself the shoe will be comfy once it's "broken in." It should feel good the moment your foot hits the ground. You can bet that if it hurts in the store, it'll hurt even more once you get home and start walking around.
  • Buy sports-specific sneakers. Because of all the quick lateral movement and weight shifts, sports like racquetball and tennis require a sneaker that supports both sides of your foot. You don't need as much shock absorption as a running or basketball shoe. Running shoes should provide maximum shock absorption to protect you against shin splints and knee pain.

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Comments

I find that comfortable shoes are the hardest things to find. Anyone have good suggestions about brands?

I generally find all shoes by Donald Pliner to be super-comfy. They haven't failed me (or my feet) yet.

Since I have an aversion to things between my toes, I'm greatly limited in sandal selection. I tend to go with the more "athletic" styles in the summer.

I guess no flip flops for you, Roxanne, huh? But maybe that's a blessing, since they're really not so great for us...

The highest I can aim for is for stylish flats -- and now you're convincing me I'm right, even if I'm not chic. Plus, my feet still like me.

Ruth, You may be in luck...I hear that flats are all the rage :)

It seems I've had foot problems now forever. It began last summer with a particularly bad case of Plantar's. I no more than got that cleared up through some (expensive) acupuncture and holistic practices and then I fell and hurt both of my ankles. Oy.

Oh, no! Sorry for all your foot problems, LL. I hope your ankles heal well - and quickly.

I have normal width toe box but with squared shape (ie, does not angle from small toe to large toe). I also have a very narrow heel so no shoes except tied shoes fit very well. Am I doomed to wear sneakers my whole life? Any brand suggestions?

Thanks for asking, JCB. I'm no expert, so I can't recommend a particular brand shoe. But I can tell you that I have a specific problem, needing a wide toe box, while having a narrow heel and high arch. Comfy shoes are so hard to find....BUT for whatever reason, I've had fabulous success with Italian-made shoes. They can be but worth every step. (Donald Pliner are my faves!) I've also found that platforms are incredibly comfortable for my foot.
Hopefully you are not doomed to a lifetime of sneaker-wearing.

The older I get, the more foot problems I have. And I've almost given up finding comfy shoes.

I just wrote a post about the different shoes I was test driving before our vacation. I ended up packing 7 pair and each pair hurt in their own unique way. I also find I cannot wear the same pair two days in a row if I'm doing a lot of walking. I don't know why shoes are so hard to find, but they sure are.

Wow, if you can't find luck with 7 different pairs, that is kind of scary...depressing...sad. How about sneakers?

Here is a great tool that you can use to help find a good pair of shoes that fit properly.

Thanks for the tip, Tilloshin!

I'm at an age where I have to start paying more attention to my feet (and other things). Thanks for the wise words. I've found that my feet get sore when I wear flip-flops for an extended period of time.

Comfortable is the way to go. I like Born.

And, if all these pointers do not work and your feet are swollen at the end of the day, try a good soak with Johnson's Foot Soap.

A good soak sounds good - I could go for that ANY time, pain or not!

I also find it difficult to find comfortable shoes for every day. I did get my foot measured and found out I need a wide width/wide toe box.

I also have a hard time finding comfortable shoes. I have suffered for a number of years and recently consulted with a podiatrist. I learned that I need sneakers with a wide toe box and a wide width for shoes and sneakers. Any suggestions for a good shoe to wear during the word day would be greatly appreciated

Thanks for stopping by, Giovanna. It's good you were able to learn the right kinds of sneakers for your foot. Personally, sneakers are the most comfortable for me and I wish I could wear them all the time. But of course, that's not entirely possible. I can't personally recommend a good shoe to wear during the day, but I have heard that the following brands are pretty comfortable: Dansko clogs, Mephisto, Hush Puppies, Rockport, Born. Try googling 'comfort shoes' and see what else you can find. Good luck~

I've always gravitated to (non-pointy) flats, my whole life. I also always walked barefoot at home. The result: no foot pain or foot problems.

Exactly! Foot Pain is all enough to ruin one's day. I believe your footwear plays a vital role. If one wants to live a life with no foot pain then they should choose their daily wear footwear carefully. Anyways,Thanks for the useful tips! one can now buy a perfect footwear by following these tips.

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