Feet endure tremendous pressures of daily living. An average day of walking brings a force equal to several hundred tons on them. They are subject to more injury than any other part of the body, underscoring the need to protect them with proper footwear.
Podiatrists (Doctors of Podiatric Medicine) are health care professionals trained for both palliative and surgical care of the foot and ankle. They are also fully qualified to recommend selection of the right pair of shoes, or address other aspects of foot health, for all members of the family.
When a child begins to walk, shoes generally are not necessary. Allow an infant to go barefooted indoors or to wear only socks on their feet. This helps the foot grow normally and develop muscle strength.
As children grow more active and their feet develop, the need for shoes becomes apparent. It becomes necessary to change shoe sizes at a pace that frequently surprises and even dismays parents, to allow room for growth.
When purchasing shoes for children, remember these tips:
Women inflict more punishment on their feet in part from improper footwear that can bring about unnecessary foot problems. Some of the problems result from high-heeled shoes (generally defined as pumps with heels of more than two inches). Podiatrists believe such heels are medically unsound, and attribute postural and even safety problems to their use.
To relieve the abusive effects of high heels, women can limit the time they wear them, alternating with good quality sneakers or flats for part of the day.
They can also vary heel height. There are comfortable and attractive "walking" pumps (also called "comfort" or "performance" pumps), for work and social activities, that blend fashion considerations and comfort, offering pumps with athletic shoe-derived construction, reinforced heels, and wider toe room.
Activity has a bearing on the considerations; wearing the right shoe for a particular activity is probably as important a factor in the choice of shoes as any.
Perhaps the best shoe for women is a walking shoe with laces (not a slip-on), a polymerized composition sole, and a relatively wider heel with a rigid and padded heel counter, no more than three-quarters of an inch in height.
The best shoes for men are good quality oxford styles, shoes ordinarily associated with wing-tip or cap toe designs. Also suitable are slip-ons, dressy loafers and low dress boots.
Men as well as women should buy shoes for work, leisure, and special activities, matching the shoe to the activity.
Male (and female) office workers should earmark three to five pairs of shoes for business hours-general oxfords and loafers for men; pumps and oxfords for women.
Cushioned-sole shoes that give good support are essential for those who spend most of their working days on their feet.
There is no question about the need for foot protection for those who work in heavy industry. Safety shoes and boots-those that are waterproof or water-resistant, with insulated steel-toe caps and soles of non-conducting materials-help prevent injuries to the feet, and reduce the severity of injuries that do occur.
Different sports activities call for specific footwear to protect feet and ankles. Sports-specific athletic shoes are a wise investment for serious athletes, though perhaps a less critical consideration for the weekend or occasional athlete; nevertheless, it's a good idea to use the correct shoe for each sport. Probably a more important consideration is the condition of the shoe-don't wear any sport or other shoes beyond their useful life.
Athletic footwear should be fitted to hold the foot in the position that's most natural to the movement involved.
For example, a running shoe is built to accommodate impact, while a tennis shoe is made to give relatively more support, and permit sudden stops and turns. For sports, "cross trainers" are fine for a general athletic shoe, such as for physical education classes. But if an individual is involved more heavily in any single sport, he or she should have a shoe specifically designed for that sport.
For longer service, keep shoes clean and in good repair. Avoid excessive wear on heels and soles. Give your shoes a chance to breathe - don't wear the same pair two days in a row. You'll have the added benefit of prolonging the life of your shoes by rotating their use. If possible, avoid wearing hand-me-down shoes; this is especially important for children.