In the words of John Snow, ‘Winter is coming!’ Long gone are the days of thongs, sandals and bare-foot behaviour. With the onset of colder temperatures, people look to enclosed shoes for warmth, comfort and support. There are however, a number of factors that need to be considered when choosing footwear for the colder days and nights. Making correct and appropriate footwear choices does become increasingly important in ensuring that your feet remain problem free.
In terms of winter-style shoes, let’s look at a few different ways your fashion-crazed ballet flats, heeled fur booties and formal business shoes may impact your foot health;
Firstly, let’s look at a staple item for all women in the winter months, the boot. Whether your pair of boots are a stiletto style or as flat as a pancake, they may be affecting your feet and the structures within your lower limbs in a way can bring about considerable discomfort or debilitation. Let’s take for example a knee-high, high-heeled pointy style boot that you wear all winter;
- First problem à knee high
- Second issue à high-heeled
- Lastly à pointy-toed
Wearing knee-high or even ankle length style shoes (for either men or women) all winter can encourage and promote weakness of all the lower limb ligaments, tendons and muscles. Over an extended period of wearing such styles, the ligaments and muscles can become dependent upon the extra support and stop working as well as they usually do. A good way to counteract this is to perform strengthening exercises for the intrinsic muscles of the foot and the ankle and also alternate between shoes so that they feet don’t always get used to extended support.
High heels are known to de-stabilise and alter the lower limb biomechanics. Would you believe that high heels also affect your posture all the way up your spine? As well as making you walk unsteady, high heels create a lot of pressure at the forefoot region (roughly around your ball of foot region and your big toe), this increased pressure can result in conditions such as;
- Morton’s neuroma
- Plantar fasciitis
- Stress fractures
And that’s just to name a few….
High heels can also exacerbate pre-existing conditions such as bunions, gout, previous stress fractures and osteoarthritis.
As well as high heels, pointy-toed shoes are a big ‘no no’ in the podiatry world. Over the course of history, humans were created with a foot shape that is very similar to an elongated rectangle, not a triangle. If we measure the width of our forefoot region and measure the corresponding area in our favourite winter flats or boots, more often than not, we will find that the two areas don’t match, with the shoes being way to tight across the forefoot. Even though your feet may look great in narrow shoes now, twenty years from now when all the bones and tendons are structurally deformed and misaligned and the only option you will be left with is chunky orthopaedic shoes, they won’t. A classic example of this is when our elderly clients with bunions and clawed toes come into the clinic and say “love, my feet are like this now because of all the pointy, shallow shoes I used to wear back in my day”.
Some things you can look out for and things you can do to avoid your feet being harmed by your winter warmers include;
- Buy boots with a supportive sole
- Look for boots that are wide and deep enough in the toe box area
- If you have orthotics, make sure your boots or flat shoes have enough room to cater for your orthotics
- Wear boots with a smaller/chunkier heel for a greater platform of stable support
- Alternate between boots that are high and low
- Try and buy leather boots as apposed to moisture retaining materials
- Air out your winter shoes and clean them regularly, fungus can also thrive in winter shoes.
- Men, choose a pair or work shoes that accommodate for your feet as rectangles, not triangles. Brands such as Rockport and hush-puppies have an excellent formal range which are both comfortable, foot friendly and will have all heads turning.
- Visit your podiatrist at The Podiatry Centre for a footwear consultation where we can show you examples of excellent, foot friendly winter shoes (men, women and kids)
- Visit your podiatrist to maintain your foot health
- If you have poor vision or poor balance, make sure you get a stable pair of slippers for home. Slippers that require a sliding action to wear may not be good for you and may increase the risk of falls. Archline have a winter boot slipper with Velcro strapping, which sit firmly on the feet and decrease the risk of falling of while you walk. These are available in many colours and styles this winter at The Podiatry Centre.
If you need further advice on footwear or have any concerns regarding your feet or lower limbs, contact us on 02 9525 8446, or get in touch with us directly via our Facebook, Instagram or Twitter pages.
Dr Jessica Shehata (Podiatrist)