18 July 2009

brief(critique): work your feet

Admit it, we all have those bad shoes nights. Sometimes the shoe that has taken you literally miles without a fatal flaw can turn on you without warning. I am constantly rotating pads in and out of my shoes and have a pair of wooden shoes stretchers at the ready. Really good shoes should not be painful to walk in, but high heels can cause major problems for the feet, back and knees, including bunions, hammer toes and disc degeneration. Experts recommend not wearing heels above 1.5 inches if you are planning on doing a lot of walking. Scoff. We both know that 1.5 just won't do. For all of us who insist on wearing skyscrapers, here are some tips:

  • Platforms and wedges, are more foot-friendly than typical stilettos, doctors say. Platforms provide extra support, help distribute weight more evenly and put less pressure on your toes and balls of your feet. However, the limited sole flexibility of the wedge increases the risk of rolling your ankle over the side.
  • Most sculpted heels are made to be seen, not walked in. Always carry a pair of flats in your bag, and wear the heels once you get to the party or office.
  • A heeled boot gives you the height plus more support around your ankles.
  • When buying a shoes, hold it at the heel and toe areas. The sole should be flexible and bend at the front of the arch but have a stiff bottom through the arch.
  • The heel should be directly underneath the center of your heel. If it is too far forward or at the back of the shoe, you'll have balance problems.
  • Make sure the toe area is wide enough through the ball of your foot. Also, look for false fronts....a pointy-toe shoe with an area that is much longer than your toes has a false front. It keeps your toes from being squished.
  • Test a shoe for cushioning by pressing a finger into the ball area. It should have a little give or a slightly padded feel. Also, something I have never forgotten from my mother - always take a potential pair of shoes for a test run off the carpet that is typically in the shoe department. 
  • Avoid synthetics. Wear shoes with leather, suede, or fabric uppers. These materials breathe, which lessens the chance of blistering.

If you spend a lot of time in heels, it is also important to stretch your Achilles tendon, toes and calves before and after each wearing. The American Podiatric Medical Association offers these suggestions:

  • Stretch your arch, either by placing a towel around the ball of your foot and gently pulling with your hands, or by standing in front of a wall and slightly leaning forward until you feel your arches stretch.
  • Strengthen toes by placing a toe separator between them and squeezing toes together for five seconds; do it 10 times. Or, wrap toes with a rubber band and spread against the resistance.
  • Grab a golf ball or other similar-sized ball, and place it on the floor under your bare feet. Gently roll it around under your feet.
  • Stand up on the balls of your feet and hold for five seconds; do this 10 times.
  • Stand with feet flat, then one at a time lift your heel from the floor and roll weight into the ball of your with your toes pointing down. Flex your foot, hold, and repeat on each foot.

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