Archives: Article

Well-heeled: Tips for picking high heels that are better for your feet

Few relationships in a woman’s life are as love-hate as the one she has with her high heels. We love them because they look great and make legs appear longer and leaner, helping petite women appear taller and tall women statuesque. The hate, however, comes when the pain begins.

High heels are the No. 1 culprit of foot pain for women, according to an American Podiatric Medical Association (APMA) survey. Nearly half of all women wear heels, and 71 percent of heel-wearers say those shoes hurt their feet, APMA reports.

With many types of heels, like very high stilettos, foot pain is hard to avoid. But it is possible for women to find a happy mid-point between great looks and great pain.

APMA offers some basic guidelines for choosing better-for-you heels:

  • Nearly half of heel-owners admit to wearing heels three inches or higher. That height, however, shifts body weight forward and puts great pressure on the ball of the foot and the toes. Avoid heels higher than two inches.
  • A high stiletto with a pointy, closed toe is the worst type of shoe for your feet. Instead, choose heels with a generous toe box area and extra cushioning at the front of the shoe. A slight heel or wedge encourages your arch to lift.
  • Consider wearing supportive shoes during your commute and changing into high heels after you arrive at the office. This simple step will help minimize the time your feet spend in heels.
  • Kitten heels are a good-looking, foot-friendly option for heel wearers. With a heel height typically less than one inch, kitten heels deliver a bit of height without the pressure that higher heels can cause.
  • Be extra careful when wearing platforms or wedges, as these styles can compromise your balance and stability. Very high shoes may lead to ankle rolls and falls. Choose lower platforms and wedges that secure with ankle straps.
  • During warm weather, peep toes tempt women to show off pretty pedicures. Be aware, however, that peep toes can cause toes to slip forward or overlap, and may even push nail edges into skin, causing an ingrown toenail.
  • Review a list of podiatrist-approved women’s footwear that has earned APMA’s Seal of Acceptance at apma.org/seal.

Finally, even if you’re like the average American woman and own nine pairs of high heels, don’t wear them every day. Daily heel-wearing can cause the Achilles tendon (the strong tendon at the back of your ankle) to shrink, increasing your risk of an injury while doing activities in flat shoes, including exercise.

Treat heels like dessert. Don’t wear them all the time, just on special occasions.

If you experience persistent foot pain, see a podiatrist. Feet shouldn’t hurt all the time, and if they do, it may indicate injury, irritation, or illness.

Power shoes: Choosing the right footwear for climbing the corporate ladder

Climbing the corporate ladder requires marketable skills, initiative, creativity, and … the right shoes? While the importance of proper footwear may seem obvious for professions that require standing or walking all day, such as waitressing, nursing, or cooking, poor shoe choices can also trip you up in an office setting.

At best, sore feet can be a troublesome distraction when you need to concentrate in a meeting or be at your best during a job interview. At worst, severe foot injuries from poor footwear can require corrective surgery that puts you out of commission—and out of the office—for extended periods of time.

While you may assume that some professions are more prone to injury than others, or that women wearing high heels are more at risk, everyone working nine to five should take steps to ensure he or she heads to work every morning wearing shoes that will help—not hinder—job performance.

When you’re choosing a dress shoe for work, keep these tips in mind:

Shoes for women

  • Avoid wearing heels higher than two inches. If you choose to wear very high heels for a meeting or other work occasion, limit the time you’re in them and change into a lower, more comfortable pair as soon as possible.
  • Vary heel height from day to day. Look for “walking” pumps—also called “comfort” or “performance” pumps—with mid- to low heels. APMA offers a list of shoes that have earned its Seal of Acceptance for promoting good foot health, available at apma.org/seal.
  • Look for plenty of toe room. Ideally, pumps with wider, rounded, or square toe boxes give your toes more room. Avoid shoes with pointy toes that squeeze digits into unnatural positions. Cramped toes can cause a host of foot woes, from bunions to ingrown toenails.
  • Choose wider heels that offer more stability. Stiletto heels and similar pointy heels are less stable and may cause spinal misalignment and ankle injuries.
  • Beware ballet flats. You may think no-heel shoes are better for your feet, but often that’s not the case. Ballet flats offer little cushioning or support, and can also cause foot problems such as plantar fasciitis, an inflammation of the tendon that connects the heel bone to the toes.
  • Regardless of heel height or shoe style, look for shoes that offer adequate arch and ankle support, and plenty of cushioning.

Shoes for men

  • Look for good quality oxford styles—like wing-tip or cap-toe designs—which tend to be best. You can also opt for slip-ons, dressy loafers, and low dress boots.
  • Avoid wearing the same pair of shoes every day. You should have at least three or four pairs of good quality professional shoes.
  • When shoes become too worn to be supportive anymore, replace them. You may be tempted to hold on to that old pair of shoes you love, but apart from looking unprofessional, worn-out shoes also provide less support for your feet.

Tips for men and women:

  • Always shop at the end of the day when feet are at their largest.
  • Choose quality materials that allow the foot to breathe.
  • Look for shoes that offer good support.

Never buy a pair of shoes that are uncomfortable, assuming you’ll break them in. Shoes should be comfortable right away. If they’re not, then they’re not the right shoes for your feet!”

Shoe shopping with teens? Sanity-saving tips for parents

Many parents agonize over making just the right choice for their baby’s first pair of shoes. In one important way, however, picking infant shoes is easier than choosing for an older child: Babies have nothing to say about what style or brand you put on their feet. Teens, however, have strong opinions about fashion—opinions that extend all the way to their toes. That could be why six out of 10 teens today experience foot pain, and two out of every 10 who suffer from foot pain experience it because they’re wearing high heels or other uncomfortable footwear, according to a 2012 survey by the American Podiatric Medical Association (APMA).

Foot health is incredibly important to a person’s overall health and well-being, especially in the teen years when feet are still growing. While our survey found that half of teens see feet as important to their overall health, many are still living with foot pain. It’s vital that we educate teens and their parents on how to properly care for their feet.

With kids of all ages—including teens—heading back to school, parents will be buying a lot of shoes in the coming weeks. APMA offers these tips for choosing teen-friendly footwear that is good looking, stylish, comfortable, and smart:

  • Sports are the top cause of foot pain in teenagers, APMA’s survey found. Seventy-five percent of high school students play a school or recreational sport, and nearly 40 percent of that group has injured their feet while playing, according to the survey.
  • When buying an athletic shoe, parents should consider what activity the teen will use the shoe for. Different sports require different shoes, and choosing one made specifically for that sport can help prevent injury. Shop at a store that specializes in athletic footwear and have the shoe fitted professionally.
  • Price is not indicative of quality, but all good athletic shoes need to offer plenty of support and cushioning. Shoes should be stiff across the middle, but bend at the ball of the foot. Like all shoes, athletic shoes should be comfortable right away, without any “breaking-in” period required for comfort.
  • Because they’re still growing, teens should always get their feet measured before buying new shoes. Feet are usually not the same size, so buy for the larger foot. Because feet expand throughout the day, shop later in the afternoon, when feet are at their largest.
  • While many teen boys virtually live in athletic shoes, girls may be more inclined to vary their wardrobe and wear dressy shoes, including high heels. More girls than boys suffer from pain due to uncomfortable shoes, and high heels are the most painful, with 64 percent of girls surveyed reporting they’ve experienced pain from high heels.
  • Good shoes support both the front and back of the foot. While high heels are okay for special occasions, teenage girls probably shouldn’t be wearing them all day long. Instead of a high heel, consider flats, or—if a teen simply must have the added height—platform or wedge heels. Keep in mind if a heeled shoe is uncomfortable when the wearer is just standing in it, it’s not likely to feel any better when she’s walking in it.
  • For both boys and girls, choose dress shoes that offer plenty of support and cushioning. Opt for breathable materials, like leather or canvas. Shoes should only bend at the ball of the foot; the sole should never be twistable or bend anywhere else. Look for plenty of room for toes and opt for shoes with wide, round, or square toe boxes. Pointed shoes can pinch toes, leading to a host of foot problems.

Teens who experience foot pain shouldn’t ignore it.

Fewer than two out of 10 teens have ever seen a podiatrist to treat foot problems. Any kind of foot pain is not normal. Teens experiencing foot pain should visit a podiatrist who can help diagnose and treat their problem.

You can see a list of podiatrist-recommended children’s footwear by visiting www.apma.org/seal and selecting “Find Products by Type” then “Footwear, Children’s.”

Foot care advice for new moms and babies

Few things in life are as darling as a newborn’s little feet, and most new moms take great joy in counting 10 tiny, perfect toes. But foot health can be a source of anxiety for both new and expectant mothers, who may wonder about the best ways to care for their baby’s feet, and how to cope with changes in their own feet.

Pregnancy creates many changes in the body and can even affect the size of a woman’s feet. And even though newborns aren’t walking yet, it’s understandable that mothers may have some concerns about how to best take care of their baby’s feet.

The discomforts of pregnancy are common and well-known, ranging from back pain and frequent bathroom trips to feet that are swollen and sore.

It’s not at all unusual for a woman to gain a shoe size while pregnant. Increased weight puts more pressure on the foot, the arch flattens a bit, and the foot elongates. Just a quarter-inch increase in foot length is enough to prompt a change in shoe size.

While it’s probably impossible to completely avoid foot challenges during pregnancy, moms-to-be can take steps to minimize them:

  • Control weight gain. Added weight is the most likely cause of foot expansion. Do your best to follow your obstetrician’s guidelines for how much weight you should gain throughout the pregnancy.
  • Avoid high heels. Sure, you see celebrities accessorizing their baby bumps with stilettos, but a lower heel during pregnancy will relieve pressure on the foot. Also, lower heels will provide you with greater stability during a time when newly gained weight might throw off your balance. It’s easy to find plenty of pretty, stylish lower heels—1 to 2 inches in height—that will look and feel great while you’re pregnant.
  • Comfort and support should be key considerations any time you choose footwear, but they are even more important for pregnant women. With extra weight and pressure on your feet for nine months, you need a shoe that provides support and cushioning. Avoid thin-soled shoes (including flip-flops and ballet flats); look for shoes with thicker soles and plenty of cushioning inside the shoes. Whatever shoe you choose, it should bend only at the ball of the foot, and you should never be able to twist the sole or bend it anywhere else.

While it’s common for women’s feet to enlarge during pregnancy—and remain that size even after delivery—generally that size increase occurs only with a first pregnancy. So you shouldn’t worry that your feet will continue to grow with subsequent pregnancies. Instead, many new moms will worry about their new baby’s feet.

The good news is, as long as the baby’s feet are healthy at birth, most newborns won’t require special care for their feet. Caring for your baby’s feet is much like caring for the rest of his or her body.

Don’t worry if your baby’s feet look discolored or wrinkled or even have flaky, peeling skin when he or she is born. After nine months in protective fluid within the womb, they’re bound to look a bit different from yours. Your pediatrician will look for any obvious abnormalities of your baby’s feet and legs and will let you know what to do if he or she finds any cause for concern.

Use baby nail clippers to keep your child’s toenails trimmed, cutting straight across to prevent ingrown toenails. Be sure to thoroughly dry baby’s feet after a bath, and choose soft, anti-microbial socks that don’t wrinkle or bunch to keep those little feet warm and protected.

When your baby starts to walk, bare feet are best inside the house as he or she learns the finer points of getting around. Outside, put him or her in a lightweight, flexible shoe made of natural materials.

If foot problems run in your family, have your child examined by a podiatrist when he or she begins to walk. Your podiatrist can inspect your child’s feet to ensure they’re growing normally.

Beyond the backpack: Back-to-school shoe-shopping tips to keep kids healthy and parents happy

For parents faced with kids’ changing tastes and opinions, navigating back-to-school shopping can be a harrowing process. Buy him the wrong backpack, and he’ll be the uncool kid on the bus. Pick out the wrong jeans for her, and she’ll be shamed by society. While neither scenario will cause kids any real harm, there is one area of back-to-school shopping where a wrong move could have health ramifications for kids—shoe shopping.

Foot health is directly related to overall health, no matter your age. Proper footwear is essential to foot health, so it’s important for parents to ensure kids go back to school with a good foundation on their feet. Shoes are one of the most important back-to-school purchases parents will make.

Children’s feet change and grow with them, and parents may find they need to update their kids’ shoes and socks every few months to accommodate this growth. Shoes that don’t fit properly can irritate the feet and affect how well a child walks, runs, and plays.

APMA offers parents some advice for finding shoes that are good for kids’ feet and also live up to their exacting tastes:

  • Always buy new—never used—and never hand down footwear. Sharing shoes can spread fungi like athlete’s foot. What’s more, children’s feet are as unique as they are. A shoe that fits one child comfortably may not fit another child as well. Plus, shoes that have been worn tend to conform to the foot of the wearer and may be uncomfortable for anyone else to put on.
  • Test the shoe before allowing a child to try it on. Check for a stiff heel by pressing on both sides of the heel counter; it shouldn’t collapse under the pressure. Bend the shoe with your hands to ensure it will bend with your child’s toes; it shouldn’t be too stiff. Try twisting the shoe; it should be rigid across the middle and never twist in that area.
  • Go shopping together. Shopping with your child ensures you can have his or her foot measured professionally, and that your child can test the shoe for a proper fit, give you his or her opinion of it, and learn from you the finer points of buying a good shoe. Kids who learn how to select a comfortable, supportive shoe may be less likely to make wrong footwear choices as adults, which could save them a lot of discomfort.
  • Remember to shop for shoes later in the day when feet are at their largest, and always buy for the larger foot. Having your child’s feet measured will help identify which foot is larger. Additionally, remember to have your child wear the type of socks or tights he or she will most likely wear with the shoe.
  • Avoid buying shoes that need a “break-in” period. Footwear should be comfortable right away. Once the school year is underway, keep an eye on your child’s shoes—active kids may wear out footwear faster than adults. Be vigilant for signs of irritation, such as your child always wanting to remove one or both shoes. The footwear may no longer fit properly, especially if it’s been a few months since you bought the shoes.

Finally, be sure children wear shoes that are appropriate for their activities. If your daughter plays sports, she should wear a good athletic shoe designed for that sport. If your son is a runner, he’ll need a good running shoe.

For daily wear when kids do a lot of walking, choose a good, supportive shoe. Keep sandals, flip-flops, and heels for occasional wear only. If your child complains of foot pain or experiences an injury, take him or her to a podiatrist. Podiatrists are uniquely qualified to diagnose and treat ailments of the feet.

Practical, protective foot health steps for people with diabetes

Healthy feet are essential for overall good health, no matter your age, fitness level, or physical challenges. For people with diabetes, however, taking care of their feet is especially vital. More than 60 percent of all non-traumatic lower-limb amputations worldwide are related to complications from the disease, according to the American Diabetes Association.

A 2012 study by the American Podiatric Medical Association (APMA) indicates Hispanics with diabetes are particularly in danger, because more than 90 percent of those with the disease or at risk for it have never seen a podiatrist as part of their health care.

The leading cause of hospitalization among people with diabetes—regardless of ethnicity—is foot ulcers and infections, but most of those problems are largely preventable. It’s important for those with the disease to ‘knock their socks off’ and receive regular foot exams by today’s podiatrists.

While ulcers—open sores on the foot—are the most common diabetes-related foot problem, several others are also serious and prevalent, including neuropathy, skin changes, calluses, poor circulation, and infection. The nerve damage that diabetes causes may mean a person with an ulcer or injury may be unaware of it until it becomes infected. Infection can lead to partial or full amputation of the foot or lower leg.

The good news is, regular care from a podiatrist can help reduce amputation rates between 45 and 85 percent, according to APMA.

People with diabetes need to inspect their feet daily and be vigilant for warning signs of ulcers, including irritation, redness, cracked or dry skin (especially around the heels), or drainage on their socks.

Although ulcers can occur anywhere on the foot or ankle, they are typically found on pressure points on the foot, like the ball of the foot or bottom of the big toe. If you discover an ulcer or have any symptoms, see a podiatrist immediately. In many cases, the foot can be saved with early treatment.

In addition to examining your feet every day, and keeping your blood glucose in your target range, make sure to follow these foot health tips:

  • Discuss your diabetes and the risks with your family. Diabetes can be hereditary, so talk to your family members about monitoring blood sugar and foot health.
  • Never go barefoot. Always protect your feet with the proper footwear and make sure socks and shoes are comfortable and fit well.
  • Trim toenails straight across, and never cut the cuticles. Seek immediate treatment for ingrown toenails, as they can lead to serious infection.
  • Keep your feet elevated while sitting.
  • Wiggle toes and move your feet and ankles up and down for five-minute sessions throughout the day.

Successfully managing diabetes is a team effort, and today’s podiatrist is an integral player on that team.