You know some of the stories out there. A kind, but long-suffering individual is granted a magical set of footwear that makes them ball-ready and, eventually, royalty.
That’s a pretty good upgrade! But when it comes to the changes shoes can make to your feet in real life, it’s not always such a fairy tale.
The effects of shoes on our feet can be very positive, but poor choices can direct us toward a darker fate. Luckily, there are many routes toward a happier ending.
High Heels – The Evil Queen of Shoes
Queens are evil far too often in fables, aren’t they? But if you’re going to talk about footwear with a sinister reputation, high heels are your top culprit.
There are a few elements of a high heel design that can wreak havoc on your feet. The first is the heel itself.
The higher the heel of a shoe, the more the foot is forced at an angle. This shifts natural weight from the heel toward the ball of the foot. When we’re talking the force of our body weight, this can have a significant impact on our comfort over time!
A heel that is three inches high can place more than 75 percent additional pressure on the front of the foot than a flat shoe. This added force can increase friction in the area just beneath the toes as well as force the toes forward against the front of the shoe.
The results of such pressure over time are not fun. Calluses and corns can develop where the bottom of your forefoot or the tops of your toes rub against the shoe.
Similarly, this angle can change the length of the Achilles tendon over time. Six months of steady high heel use can have an impact on tendon length that is measurable. You might also feel it when you try to wear flats again! That’s because the shortened Achilles tendons are being forced to stretch, even when they’re in what should be a more normal state!
There’s one other change that many connect to high heels: bunions and hammertoes. Are heels directly responsible for them?
Believe it or not, there is still a good amount of debate on whether heels actually cause these toe deformities. Here’s what we do know, however: the pressure that high heels place on the front of the foot can make developing cases of bunions and hammertoes worse.
So even if high heels aren’t directly responsible for these cases, those who are more genetically likely to develop a deformity can see that progression happen faster and more severely in heels. It’s like how the evil queen didn’t directly put Snow White to sleep; she just gave her the apple.
Ill-Fitting Shoes – The Wrong Porridge Bowl
Too big? Too small? Hopefully your shoes are “just right.”
Because if they’re not, it’s not a fun story.
Let’s start with shoes that are too small; the ones that people decide they will need to “break in.”
First, there’s no such thing as “breaking in” a shoe. A shoe either fits properly as soon as you put it on, or it doesn’t. When you’re “breaking in” a shoe, the shoe is “breaking” your foot right back!
As with many heels, other shoes that have a small toebox can also cause harm to the toes. The toenails especially can become susceptible to damage, including bruising and ingrowing. Toenails that are damaged are also more likely to contract a fungal infection. General tightness around your foot will also contribute to blisters.
Now what about the opposite end of the spectrum, when shoes are too large? We tend to see this when parents buy shoes for their child a couple sizes bigger than they need, planning to see their feet grow into them.
Surprisingly, we tend to see similar problems in too large shoes as we do in those that are too small—only for slightly different reasons. Blisters can appear as the foot continually slides against the inside of the shoe, causing friction. Likewise, toenails can still get bruised and damaged, but due more to the toes constantly slamming against the front of the shoe instead of being pressured and confined.
Work Shoes – Cinderella’s Other Footwear
Is your footwear made for the job? If not, it can be harming your feet.
If your job involves a lot of walking and standing, then support and cushioning are going to be paramount. Work heels are going to be a killer, as they don’t provide either of these things.
If you experience foot and heel pain, or just plain fatigue when you get home from work, your shoes are not making your feet ready for work. It can pay to seek out footwear that is better made for the shape and support your foot needs.
Specializing in Magic Slippers
Alright, so we don’t have any actual magic when it comes to making feet feel better. What we do have is even better: science and proven experience!
The right shoes can make a big difference to feet—even those that have become a bit “monstrous” over time. Providing the correct support and alignment for your needs can not only make your feet comfortable, but the rest of your body as well!
And when shoe changes are not enough, custom-made orthotics can be your perfect match for correcting painful problems and managing conditions that have already developed.