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Foot problems: Finding the right shoes


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Footwear plays a large role in the development as well as the prevention of foot and toe problems such as bunions, calluses and corns, and hammer, claw, and mallet toes. Shoes that don't fit properly make these conditions worse and more painful.

Key points

  • A comfortable, well-fitted shoe offers you the best chance of:
    • Relieving pain in the foot or toe that is caused by a deformity or joint problem.
    • Preventing a foot or toe problem from developing or getting worse.
    • Preventing a toe joint problem from returning after corrective surgery.
  • Before shopping for shoes for your foot problem, ask your foot doctor for recommendations.

Return to topic:

Bunions, calluses, corns, and hammer, claw, and mallet toes are some common foot problems that develop over time. These problems can range from uncomfortable to painful. In severe cases, they can make it hard to wear shoes at all.

See pictures of a bunionClick here to see an illustration.; hammer, claw, and mallet toesClick here to see an illustration.; a callusClick here to see an illustration.; and a cornClick here to see an illustration..

Test Your Knowledge

Are all foot problems painful?

Yes
No

Shoes that fit properly are key to both preventing and treating foot problems. You can develop a bunion, callus or corn, or hammer, claw, or mallet toe for a number of reasons, such as joint disease, genetic predisposition, or stroke. But your footwear can play a large part in how bad your foot condition becomes.

If you have surgery for a foot problem, wearing shoes that fit properly will reduce your chances that the foot problem may come back (recur).

Test Your Knowledge

After my foot problem is surgically corrected, I can feel free to wear any kind of shoe.

True
False

For some people, the only acceptable option is a sandal or athletic shoe that doesn't rub on an existing bunion, callus or corn, or hammer, claw, or mallet toe. But most people will be able to find a shoe that causes little or no pain and allows them to function. Before shopping for new footwear, ask your foot doctor for recommendations specific to your needs.

Consider the following when shopping for footwear:

  • Try on shoes at the end of the day, when your feet are at their largest due to normal swelling.
  • If you have shoe inserts or orthotics, bring them with you to test them out in various shoes.
  • Shoe size, especially width, may change with age. Having both feet measured ensures a good fit and identifies which foot is larger. Fit your shoes according to how the larger foot feels in the shoe.
  • Stand during the fitting process to get an accurate sense of the fit.
  • Walk around the store to make sure that the shoe fit feels right.
  • If a shoe feels right but isn't your normal size, pay attention to how it feels. Ignore shoe size.
  • You should not have to "break in" shoes if they fit properly.
  • If a particular shoe fits snugly, the clerk may be able to stretch the shoe for a better fit.

When shopping for the right fit, look for:

  • A low heel. Avoid high-heeled, narrow, or pointed-toe shoes. High-heeled shoes increase pressure on the front of the foot and on the toe joints. If you cannot avoid wearing pumps or high-heeled shoes, choose shoes with heels that are no more than 2 in. (5 cm) high.
  • A wide and deep toe box (the area that surrounds the toes). There should be about 0.5 in. (1.3 cm) of space between your longest toe and the end of the shoe. You should be able to wiggle your toes in your shoes.
  • A rigid yet cushioned heel counter that keeps your foot from slipping out of the shoe.
  • A flexible sole that allows your toes to bend as you walk.
  • A shoe that allows the ball of your foot to fit snugly into the widest part of the shoe.
  • A lace-up shoe rather than a slip-on shoe. Athletic shoes are a good choice.
  • Shoes that breathe when your feet sweat. Avoid plastic or vinyl shoes.
  • Shoes that do not have seams that may rub against or irritate the skin over your foot problem.

At home:

  • Wear sandals or soft-leather flat shoes or slippers, or buy an inexpensive pair of cloth shoes and cut a hole over the affected joint.
  • Go barefoot as much as possible (or just wear a sock) unless you have diabetes or peripheral arterial disease or other conditions that decrease the feeling in your feet. People who have these conditions and have limited or no sensation in their feet are encouraged not to go barefoot, because unnoticed injuries to their feet are more likely to become infected.

Test Your Knowledge

High-heeled shoes with room for the toes are a good choice for problem feet.

True
False

Now that you have read this information, you are ready to find the best shoe fit for your particular foot problem.

If you would like more information on footwear, bunions, hammer toes, or other related foot problems, the following resources are available:

Organizations

American College of Foot and Ankle Surgeons (ACFAS)
8725 West Higgins Road
Suite 555
Chicago, IL 60631-2724
Phone: 1-800-421-2237
(773) 693-9300
Fax: (773) 693-9304
Email: info@acfas.org
Web Address: www.foothealthfacts.org

The American College of Foot and Ankle Surgeons provides information on surgery and shoe selection as well as the care and treatment of heel, toe, ankle, nerve, tendon, nail, and skin conditions; sports injuries; diabetic foot problems; arthritis; and resources in your local area. Some information is available in Spanish.


American Orthopaedic Foot and Ankle Society
6300 North River Road
Suite 510
Rosemont, IL 60018
Phone: 1-800-235-4855
(847) 698-4654
Fax:
Email:
Web Address: www.aofas.org

The American Orthopaedic Foot and Ankle Society (AOFAS) provides information on a variety of topics, including foot care for adults, children, and people who have diabetes; proper shoe fit; and how to select children's shoes and sports shoes. Some information is available in several languages besides English.


American Podiatric Medical Association
9312 Old Georgetown Road
Bethesda, MD 20814-1621
Phone: 1-800-FOOTCARE (1-800-366-8227)
(301) 581-9200
Fax: (301) 530-2752
Email: info@apma.org
Web Address: www.apma.org

The American Podiatric Medical Association (APMA) provides information about foot and ankle injuries, sports-related foot concerns, surgical and nonsurgical treatment of foot problems, special medical issues such as diabetes, and resources in your local area. Some information is available in Spanish.


ByHealthwise Staff
Primary Medical ReviewerWilliam M. Green, MD - Emergency Medicine
Specialist Medical ReviewerBarry L. Scurran, DPM - Podiatry and Podiatric Surgery
Last RevisedFebruary 4, 2010

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