Healthy Spaces

Heel your sole

When those high heels start pinching, wear sensible walking shoes instead.
When those high heels start pinching, wear sensible walking shoes instead.PHOTO: ISTOCKPHOTO

Ill-fitting shoes can cause corns and lead to knee and back pain

Tempted to buy that eye-catching pair of shoes you saw online?

But before you place the order, say podiatrists, remember that when buying shoes, the most important thing is to try them on.

"Shoes should always be comfortable from the moment you put them on," said Mr Leow Yen Yong, a podiatrist at Hougang Polyclinic. The fit should be good, he added.

If you have broad feet, look for shoes with a wide toe box and if you have narrow feet, get shoes with a narrow fit, he said. This prevents excessive movement of your feet inside the shoes while giving the toes plenty of room.

The correct shoe size does not mean having space at the back of the heel to slide your finger into.

Your heel should be sitting at the back of the shoe, with one thumb's width of space between the edge of the shoe and the longest toe.

Mr Leow said shoes should have a firm heel cup to lock the heel in place and provide stability for the foot.

Ms Marabelle Heng, principal podiatrist at Singapore General Hospital, said a good pair of shoes should offer support and cushioning at the same time. But the sole should not be rock hard.

Here is a guide to footwear.

HIGH HEELS

A recent survey of 230 women by Save Our Soles Singapore - a final- year project by students at Nanyang Technological University's Wee Kim Wee School of Communication & Information - showed that 35 per cent of them continued to wear their heels despite the pain and discomfort.

High heels put the foot at an angle, affecting the natural way we stand and walk. This affects other parts of the body, including the knee and lower back.

Ms Heng said: "The back arches to keep the body's centre of gravity balanced and this may lead to lower back pain."

If you have to wear high heels, try to wear them only a few days a week. Pick those with a thicker heel as they support the foot better, said Ms Heng.

SLIPPERS They are good for beach use or to protect the feet at home or in the toilet. But they are not for extensive walking as they do not support the feet well.

However, some sandals support the arch of the foot and have a good sole, said Ms Heng.

SHOES FOR OUTDOOR ACTIVITIES

Running shoes and cross trainers are the most common choices.

Running shoes are lighter and more flexible, and are good for daily walks, jogs and runs on flat terrain, said Mr Leow.

Cross trainers are slightly heavier and more stable, offering more support for lateral movements. They can be used for brisk walks or runs. They also provide more support for your feet if you are hiking on rough terrain, he added.

GENERAL WALKING SHOES

A good pair of shoes will have a fastening system as this is the only way to secure the foot in the shoe when we are walking, said Mr Leow. These fastenings include shoelaces, velcro straps or buckles.

SLIP-ON SHOES

These are not advisable, as the toe box is often too low and narrow, said Mr Leow. Such shoes are made to minimise the motion of the foot inside the shoe, he said.

However, when the toe box is too narrow, it may cause corns and calluses due to friction and excessive pressure.

The front portion of the shoe should always be wide and high enough to allow your toes to spread out and move, he said.

BALLET FLATS AND SOFT SHOES

They may look comfortable but they are not good for your feet.

Ballet flats do not have a solid shank in the midsole to offer support and stability for the foot, said Mr Leow.

In fact, a pair of shoes with proper support should not be able to fold in half. When the shoe is bent, the front end of the shoe should not touch the heel counter.

The primary function of the mid- sole is to absorb the shock produced while walking and running.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 25, 2017, with the headline 'Heel your sole'. Print Edition | Subscribe