With summer just a few weeks away, Vancouver residents are beginning to spend more and more time outdoors – especially when it pertains to their physical activity. Regardless of what it is you’re doing to stay fit (whether it’s running, jogging, walking, or partaking in outdoor sports), Dr. Ali Ghahary, a family physician practicing in British Columbia, says it’s important to ensure that you have good footwear…because what’s on your feet plays a much bigger role in your health than you might realize. Aside from the obvious (i.e. sore feet and blisters), lack of good footwear can also lead to problems with posture and your back.
When it comes to choosing the right shoes (especially running shoes), there are some common mistakes that people make. First, it’s all about finding the right fit. Aside from causing sore feet and back issues, buying shoes that are too small in size or too narrow can lead to a multitude of problems such as deformation of the leg joints, bunions, ingrown toe nails, skin irritation, as well as the formation of corns. To know whether or not the shoes you’ve picked out are the right size for you, make sure there’s at least a thumb’s width between the tip of your longest toe and the end of the show. If you have to force your foot into a pair of shoes then you should opt for a bigger size. Sandals are also commonly worn during the summer, and they’re another type of shoe that people tend to have problems with when it comes to sizing. When you wear sandals that are too short, you may be unknowingly supporting the shoes with your toes. This means that the muscles in your feet stay tensed, and the load on your feet is not distributed evenly. As a result, you put yourself at risk of either snapping a heel off the shoe or tripping and twisting your ankle – or worse – suffering a broken bone.
If your shoes are too small, that also doesn’t mean that you should go out and buy a bigger pair – because shoes that are too big can pose just as great a risk as shoes that are too small. Aside from tripping over your own two feet as a result of your shoes being too big or too loose, you’re also overworking your leg muscles. Wearing shoes that are too big can also lead to back problems, knee problems, deformation of the toes and joints, as well as calluses.
In warmer months, it’s also recommended that you wear shoes with proper ventilation, as well as make sure they are made from natural materials. Wearing shoes made from unnatural materials (i.e. fake leather) during warmer weather can result in skin irritation due to the shoe’s chemical components, as well as fungal infections and lesions. Depending on the materials your shoes are made from, there’s also a chance that they could crack or break as a result of warmer weather, which also increases your risk of bone sprains or breaks.
Another common misconception about footwear is that flat-soled shoes are better. However, this is false. Wearing flat-soled shoes for longer than 2 hours per day can have a significant, negative impact on your health including back, hip and knee problems. This is because flat-soled shoes have absolutely no support. Without support, and by wearing flat-soled shoes over time, you’re at risk of developing fallen arches – also known as flat feet. Flat feet is generally a condition that is genetic, but it can be aggravated by poor footwear. Rather than wearing flat shoes, it’s recommended that your everyday shoes are able to hold their shape and have a heel ranging anywhere from 0.8 to 1.5 inches.
For persisting foot problems that don’t get better (even with the right footwear), you may need to see a podiatrist. A podiatrist is a type of doctor that specializes in the diagnosis, treatment and rehabilitation of issues affecting the feet. You can find out more about podiatry by clicking here.