Today, I’m welcoming guest contributor Christophe Champs to discuss how shoes can affect your health and best practices for choosing the right shoes for you. Christophe is a consultant in Podiatry and Biomechanics and the founder of PODO Clinic and Workshop. Over to you, Christophe…
If you have foot pain, back pain, neck pain, or hip pain, get your feet and gait checked by a professional podiatrist and biomechanics expert. That’s right, your feet could be the cause of a number of conditions – and could be key to improving your health.
And that makes choosing the right footwear important. Really important.
If a pair of must-have shoes are only available in one size too small for you, those shoes should become can’t have. That’s obvious to almost all of us. But what is less clear to many is that even sticking to your shoe size can be bad for your feet.
The size number varies depending on shoe type, model, brand, manufacture, stitching and materials. And an adult will often size up by 1 to 1.5 in European measurements due to various changes in life, such as the body weight, an acquired condition affecting tendons and ligaments, a neurological disorder, surgery, pregnancy, menopause and much more. Feet shape and size may seem static – but they are influenced by a wide variety of factors.
Most foot problems are linked to ill-fitting shoes.
Whether they are too big and not providing support—which can lead to imbalances and issues like plantar fasciitis—or they are too small and causing toe deformities and skin and nail problems.
How to tell if your shoes are the right size
So, if the fit is what is important, how can you tell if the shoe is right for you?
Shoes must strap and protect the feet while offering enough volume and flexibility for the foot to move and swell (and shrink) throughout the day. If the shoes don’t feel good in the store, they won’t do your feet any good afterwards.
Allow an extra size for running shoes and less space for football boots where the feeling of the ball is important when playing.
For hiking shoes, since the tongue tends to be attached on both sides and doesn’t move around, you must make sure the shoe doesn’t feel tight on the top of the foot (above the instep).
Top Tip: Always try your hiking shoes or boots with thick socks on, and then you will have the option to gain more volume with thinner socks on long hikes. A snug feeling is essential; a tight feeling will hurt.
When it comes to purchasing trainers, skip some of the eyelets above the instep to create a window of decompression. You will then support the forefoot and the heel without applying any pressure on the instep.
Finally, always try the shoes before buying them…
And do it at the end of the day when the foot gets swollen in size. If you use shoe inserts or orthotics, take these with you, and always try the shoe with the type of sock you intend to wear them with.
These tips are important as ill-fitting shoes can cause a range of problems, including creating an imbalance in your gait and overall body biomechanics. In turn, this can lead to pain and make you more susceptible to back, neck and hip problems.
By using orthotics, tailored-made to each foot, you can reduce the risk of imbalance and damage and correct posture problems. In turn, this will reduce pain and can often give you, as some patients put it, a ‘new lease of life’ as movement becomes easier and the body is stronger when properly balanced.
Orthotics need to be custom-made for your feet, as each person and each foot is different. Orthotics are made for your feet, not for your shoes. A great way to see what is going on with your feet is to make a simple footprint on a sheet of paper. This is often enough to highlight the bones’ limits, the plantar pressures and, from there, a professional can build a pair of custom orthotics. This is always best done with you in the room so each orthotic can be properly fitted and adjusted during the process. This way, you can be absolutely sure that the orthotic will do its job.
Do orthotics affect the size of shoes I need to buy?
If your orthotics are bulky, you might need to go up a size. When custom moulded, layer by layer, directly onto your feet, and when the aim is to merely use the volume available, many of my patients actually find they go down a size.
Good to Know: Often, on social media, you will see pictures of the toe box of the show having been cut out underneath. The post will claim that this shows how your feet as ‘squashed’ into the shoe and that being unable to spread your toes is a bad thing. However, these two-dimensional clichés do not reflect the truth. The foot is three-dimensional with 28 bones and three arches that need support. Being able to move around a lot and spread your toes inside the shoe and not feel the shoe support you is not good for the foot.
Custom orthotics will help sustain your arches (whether they are high or collapsed or anything in between), and this helps to make the most of the volume available in the shoes, which then prevents your foot from collapsing or flattening. With orthotics, high arches are maintained, flat feet are given structure, and collapsed arches are realigned – in other words, everyone can benefit from more arch support. Orthotics also take the pressure off the ball of the foot and stop your toes from spreading. No need to size up or buy a wide-fitted shoe anymore.
Simply knowing your shoe size number won’t necessarily be that much help. Every brand makes so many shoes, using so many different factories in Vietnam, China, and Portugal, that there is no consistency anymore. So, never trust the number. Only the fit matters and your overall feeling when you try the shoes on.
Christophe Champs is a consultant in Podiatry and Biomechanics and the founder of PODO Clinic and Workshop. Christophe works with clients to help correct postural and biomechanical issues that are causing pain or putting a client at risk of injury. By testing both the moving gait and the still posture, Christophe can correct misalignment and asymmetry by creating custom-made orthotics to suit the exact needs of each individual client.
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I’d like to thank Christophe for sharing his knowledge here today. I didn’t realise shoes can affect your health and these important points about choosing the right shoes for you. It will certainly be helpful when I’m next out shoe shopping. How about you? Whatever you’d like to say – or ask – please do. I’m happy to help, and I always love to hear from you!