Contributing Author: Alice Krueger
Choosing shoes is not mainly about fashion, especially if you have a disability that involves balance or mobility issues, or if you have reduced sensation in your feet and legs. Sure you want to look great, but you also want to feel good and move easily. Of course everyone is different, but if you are dealing with these disability factors you must consider comfortable fit before style.
First, don’t buy a shoe or size and think you will break them in and that they will be more comfortable after you have worn them a few times. It’s not likely to happen.
Next, think about heel height. Women should not wear anything with a heel taller than two inches. Higher heels cause foot pain and make walking more difficult.
Also, avoid backless styles (mules or slip-ons) that can slide off your heels and cause you to fall. Flip flops are also dangerous because they require toe strength to keep them on, and a good sense of balance to walk in them properly.
If your fine motor skills allow you to tie shoelaces, tie shoes are the most likely to stay put on your feet. However, if tying shoelaces is not possible for you, choose a pair with Velcro fastener strips or stretchy elastic laces that you can tie once and then slip on and off.
Hold the shoe you are considering buying and check its weight and flexibility. If you have trouble lifting your feet, a lighter weight shoe may help. If you have balance issues, perhaps a heavier, less flexible shoe would be a better choice to help with stability.
The stiffness of a shoe is controlled by a metal piece inside the sole, called the shank. Try carefully bending the toe of the shoe upward to test the shank’s stiffness. People differ in how stiff they prefer their shoes, but in general less stiffness makes walking easier. Choose whatever works best for your needs.
Turn the shoe upside down and examine the bottom of the sole. The sole material and tread pattern will make a difference in your walking. Smooth leather soles tend to be slippery on many surface. Rubber soles with some corrugation provide a little cushioning and grip most surface better. But this may be a trade off, as shoes with deeper tread have thicker, heavier soles, and the added weight may be a deterrent. Thin soled shoes may be better for persons with sensory impairment in their feet, since they have trouble getting sensory feedback from the surfaces they walk on.
With all these factors to consider, it’s important to recognize that the most important factor in choosing the best shoes is finding the correct size. If you get shoes that are too small, you risk pain and disfigurement. If your shoes are too large, you expend additional energy keeping the shoes on your feet as you walk in them. Try shoe shopping at the end of the day, when your feet tend to be swollen a bit more than usual. Then choose a size that extends a half inch past your longest toe.
These suggestions will help you put your best foot forward next time you shop for new shoes.
Photos from Morguefile