Part of my job when dispensing orthotics to patients, is to educate them on the type of shoes that fit orthotics as is can be often confusing as to what to buy and what to avoid. Fitting orthotics in sport shoes, or lace-up shoes is often a straight forward process with no difficulty. However, orthotics that have to be used in work or casual footwear is often confusing as they vary so much. I have written this article as a guide to assist those who use orthotics, and need professional advise and guidance on what features to look for in a casual or work shoe to comfortably fit orthotics.
There are plenty of shoes on the shelves to fit orthotics but often they are the shoes we don’t pick for ourselves. Often people say why don’t they make good-looking shoes that fit orthotics. The simple answer is that popular attractive shoes are mostly not good for our feet as they are usually too narrow or slim or unsupportive.
In order to understand what to look for in a shoe, you must firstly understand the anatomy of a shoe. Below is a picture identifying the features of a shoe. I often do not tell patients a specific brand of shoe but speak of features of a shoe. This is more informative and knowledgeable.
Toe box – this part of the shoe covers your toes. With or without orthotics, you should always buy shoe with adequate depth and space in the toe box. It is often I see people use shoes made to fit 3 toes , not 5 and then wonder why they have sore toes. Ensure the toebox is round or square, and you are able to wiggle your toes inside. This allows your toes to have ample space to move whilst you walk.
Heel cup – An orthotic will readjust your heel to be straight. Bu doing so, it often requires a shoes that has good stable firm counter with deep heel cup. This helps to hold your heel in place whilst the orthotic is attempting to straighten it. Shallow, flimsy heel counters found often in ballet flats or converse shoes are prime examples of what to avoid. If the heel cup isn’t sturdy and deep, you can slip out of the shoe or get blisters on the heel.
Vamp – this part if the shoe covers the top of your arch. An orthotic helps to raise you arch to stop you from rolling in. A shoe needs to be high and have adequate depth in the vamp to accommodate the new raised position on the arch. If the vamp is too low, you can slip out of the shoe. If the vamp is too shallow, you can get sore on the top of the arch.
Outersole and midsole – This part of the shoe is the interface between the sole and the ground. Just like a tyre, it requires a thick sturdy material to absorb the shock and maintain stability as we walk. You shouldn’t be able to twist and bend the sole at the arch. It should only bend at the ball of the foot.
Below are a few examples of Australian footwear stores and brands that make shoes to fit orthotics. You are not limited to these shoes, but they give you an idea of ‘orthotic shoes’. Click on the word and it will re-direct you to their website.