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Shoe Fitting

Shoe Fitting by David Webby


For many people, finding a shoe that fits properly can be a frustrating and time-consuming process. Because many people have subtle abnormalities of their feet, the process of finding a proper fitting shoe can be difficult. There are few simple guidelines that if followed can make the process a bit more tolerable. 



Guidelines to follow for Shoe Fitting:



1/- It is important to fit the shoe to the shape of your foot. 

In other words, if you have a fairly straight looking foot, choose a shoe that has a straighter last to it, or a semi curved last.

A curved last shoe may encourage too much pronation.

You can check the last shape of the shoe by checking the alignment of the sole of the shoe by bisecting the heel and following the line through the middle of the shoe. It will be a curved last if the bisection runs through the 3rdtoe, whereas a semi curved shoe will run through the 2nd/3rd toes



2/- The length of the shoe is important to ensure no pressure on the toes and nails. 

One should be able to measure a thumb nail's width from the end of the longest toe to the end of the shoe. This insures the possibility of trauma to the toenail, particularly if the foot slides forward when walking down hill. 

Short shoes can cause ingrown toenails and corns on the end of the toes. 

Sometimes the lacing of the shoe is too loose or one forgets to ensure the heel is back in the shoe before doing the laces up.



3/- The width of the shoe is important to ensure no pressure on the toes that may lead to corns between the toes or cause the nail of one toe to cut into the skin of the neighboring toe. 

Excessive width can cause too much movement in the shoe during walking / gait resulting in callus build up or blisters. If the shoe is too wide the foot tends to pronate or flatten through the arch causing the toes to slide out towards the side of the shoe.

Shoes should be purchased that have adequate room in the toe box area, so there is no pressure on top of the toes.



4/-The heel counter at the back of the shoe should be strong, and is important in reducing or controlling foot pronation, (flat feet), by supporting the heel joint and overall function of the foot.

Some heel counters are extended to give more support of the inside and sometimes the outside of the heel. 

The heel counter at the back of the shoe should also be perpendicular, and not tilted/angled to the side. This could indicate a defect in the manufacture of the shoe. 



5/- The next thing to look for is support and contour of the midfoot. 

A supportive shoe will hug the inside of your arch and give further stability and support the heel joint. 

Some shoes like Skate shoes are too wide through the midfoot allowing the foot to pronate in the shoe. Keen bush walking shoes also have a wide last, and allow the foot to pronate. They are suited to someone with a very broad foot, whereas Solomon boots are more suited to those with a narrow foot type. 

A good supportive sports shoe will reduce likelihood of injury and support the posture and function of your feet.


6/- Additionally, look for a shoe that is fairly flexible in the forefoot area. It should not bend in the middle. A rocker sole allows for more flexion of the big toe joint.



7/- It is a good rule to put you hand inside the shoe and check for any defects in the seams of the shoe. Seams that are prominent have the potential to cause irritation to areas on the foot. 




How can we Help?


Podiatrists are trained to observe and treat for abnormal conditions and gait of the feet and legs, which may result in foot pain or affect other areas of your body such as your hips and back.


If you have foot or back pain, we suggest you bring your shoes in for examination.


Abnormal wear on the inside or outside of the shoe can point to abnormal gait or foot function.


Excessive wear may also mean your shoe has lost it’s support and needs replacing.


Poor supportive shoes can affect your alignment of your body.


Bringing a selection of your favourite shoes gives us as Podiatrists to assess what type of footwear you normally wear, and relate that to your symptoms.




Other Considerations:



Diabetic patients need to be particularly aware of the type of shoes that they wear. This is especially true if they have poor circulation, numbness or a loss of sensations in their feet (neuropathy). The upper of the shoe should be of soft leather with few or no seams. Extra depth shoes are available that meet the needs of many diabetic patients. See Diabetes for further information on foot care.



Children's Feet:


Children's feet are soft and pliable making them prone to damage from abnormal pressure, such as shoes which are too small.


Tips for fitting Children's shoes:


  • Always have both feet measured for length and width

  • The shoe should fit the natural shape of their foot especially around the toes

  • The toe of the shoe should allow toes to move freely and not be squashed from the top or the sides.

  • Make sure there is about 10mm growing room for children between the end of their longest toe and the end of the shoe.

  • Shoes should fit comfortably around the heel and not be too loose or too tight.


When purchasing shoes, it is always a good idea to have the salesperson measure your feet. It is also a good idea to have both feet measured, because in many instances there may be a difference in the size of your feet. If you have two feet that are not the same size, it is recommended that you buy shoes to fit the bigger foot. 


Our feet change just like our eyes as we get older. A person's feet tend to become a bit longer and wider. Women, during pregnancy have a tendency for their shoe size to change. This is because during pregnancy a woman's body produces a hormone called elastin. This hormone softens the ligaments about the pelvis to assist during delivery. Unfortunately, the hormone also affects other ligaments in the body. The ligaments in the foot are particularly affected. This coupled with an increase in weight and a change in the center of gravity causes many women to experience a change in their shoe size. 


Our feet also have a tendency to change size during the course of the day. Shoes that may feel comfortable in the morning may feel tight and uncomfortable later in the day. This occurs because of a variable amount of swelling in the feet that occurs as the day goes on. Therefore it is a good idea to buy your shoes later in the day. 



If a person has an abnormality of their foot that requires some degree of "motion control" they are better advised to seek the advice of a Podiatrist who can determine their needs and prescribe a device that corrects abnormal function of the foot. These devices called orthotics which fit into most shoes. In many cases the use of an orthotic will correct abnormal wear patterns seen in a persons shoes. 

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