Age-related changes impact our feet in several different ways. It is common for feet to get longer, wider, and in some cases even the arch of the foot to collapse. To help maintain good foot health and to continue to enjoy everyday activities, it is essential to wear proper fitting footwear.
The first step when shopping for footwear is to have both feet measured. This needs to be completed by someone else, as it is not accurate for you to do it yourself. Often one foot can be larger than the other and in these cases the shoes always need to be fit to the larger foot.
These measurements are then used as a starting point for finding footwear. Keep in mind the size of shoe you may require, can vary between brands. These differences occur since each brand uses a different set of lasts to manufacture their shoes. Also, not all brands use the same sizing system. The most common shoe sizing systems are North American and European, although there is not a direct conversion between the systems. For example, a women’s size 8.5 shoe could be a European size 38 or 39. Thus, it is always best to try shoes on before purchasing them.
Within each brand there are also differences between each model. For example the Brooks Ghost running shoe and the Brooks Glycerin running shoe are both from the brand Brooks, but they fit and feel different. So, since shoes vary within the same brand, it is helpful to do a few tests on the shoe.
The first test is heel cup stability. Grab the back of the shoe where it wraps around your heel and squeeze the material. A good heel counter feels firm and does not collapse or lose its shape. The second test is torsional rigidity. Grab the heel counter in one hand, toe of the shoe in the other and twist the shoe. If it collapses and wrings out like a dish cloth, it may be too soft to provide all-day support. The third test is sole stability. Grab the heel counter in one hand, the toe of the shoe in your other, and try to fold the shoe in half. The shoe should flex slightly at the same point as the ball of your foot. If the shoe folds in half easily in the middle, it may not have enough sole stability for all-day wear.
Once you have proper fitting footwear, it is always best to try them out at home before wearing them outside. A good fitting pair of shoes should feel comfortable and need minimal break in time. When your feet are happy in the new shoes you can continue enjoying everyday activities, but don’t forget that the average lifespan of walking and running shoes is 6 to 12 months. So, make sure to replace your footwear regularly to continue to keep your feet happy and healthy!
Written by Stephanie Taylor BHK, C. Ped (C)
Canadian Certified Pedorthist & Shoe Store Manager at Orthoquest Pedorthics and Rehabiliation Inc.