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Published on November 16, 2016

variety of women's shoes

If the Shoe (or Boot) Fits … You’ll Treat Your Feet Better

When you insist on a good fit, you’ll do yourself a favor all winter long and still wear some of the coolest boots and shoes. No, really!

That’s the word from Michael Zimmerman, DPM, Avera Medical Group podiatrist. He gave us the scoop on toe-bed dimensions, the importance of arch support and how to shop with your best foot and ankle health in mind.

And as he said, a great fit makes the biggest difference.

“Everyone’s feet are different, and every designer’s shoe-size varies a little, so the best place to start is with a trip to a store that has good service and a Brannock device,” said Zimmerman. “Make sure to stand when you use that device, as your foot will lengthen slightly when you’re standing, and make sure you measure for length as well as width.”

That careful measurement will save pain and money later. Zimmerman said our feet continue to change as we age, so what fit last winter might not fit as well this year. So yes, you should go boot shopping sometime soon, just in case.

Here are some of his insights on what to look for and to avoid as you hunt for footwear this fall.

Test Your Toe Box: Overall, fit is important, but the shoe’s toe box is where it’s most crucial. “Make sure it’s not only long enough, but wide and deep enough as well,” he said. “Especially check this fit if you have conditions that would be made worse by too-tight a fit in the toes. They should not be smashed into the shoe.”

Get Up and Walk: Get up and walking around the store when you’re shopping. “Take a lap around the store to feel the sensation. If it’s even a little tight, consider a size wider – if you can find one. It’s a good way to avoid discomfort,” Zimmerman said.

Healing Heels: You want what’s fashionable, but try to keep those heels 2 inches or lower. Higher heels will push your toes into the toe box and can make any problem like a neuroma or bunion much worse. “Best to be safe, especially in the winter,” Zimmerman reminded us. “Make sure to avoid soles that are smooth for inclement weather, too. High heels can speed up foot injuries for some, but other women wear them for life and have no problems.”

Acknowledge the Arch: Zimmerman said a good supportive shoe should not “ball up” when you fold the toes toward the heel, and if it does, it’ll make your foot do all the work and can lead to a variety of ailments. “As you move through your gait without support, you are stressing bones, muscles and tendons in your foot,” he said. “Not everyone can deal with a boot or shoe that offers no arch support. Over-the-counter inserts can really help if your feet need more support.”

Zimmerman said many patients come to him with shoe and boot questions, so don’t be shy if you have questions about a foot or ankle condition and what you should wear this fall and winter: ask your podiatrist for help and relief.

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