22 May 2017
It’s all about the right shoe for the right task – National Walking Month
There’s often an accepted belief that all podiatry professionals are against heels and would prefer us all to walk around in ‘sensible’ shoes, but is that really the case? There are numerous contradicting articles published, from “Heels are bad” to “Flat shoes are bad”, and “Never wear flip flops” to “Why being barefoot isn’t the best for your feet”. So which ones should we listen to?
To share his views we have asked Andrew James, Consultant Podiatrist at Spire Cardiff Hospital, to “step on” on the common questions he’s asked in his podiatry clinics.
1. So Andrew, first things first. Are High Heeled shoes bad for our health?
We’ve all seen the articles about celebrities wearing high heels and how they cause bunions. But this is simply not true! Bunions are often associated with a foot that rolls inwards, as the foot rolls in it becomes more flexible and that increased flexibility causes the instability in the joint.
It’s a mechanical problem and if you think this may be something you are experiencing, or want some advice about a bunion, a Consultant Podiatrist can help.
High heels may make a bunion more painful, but they won’t cause a bunion to develop.
My view is that most people when they have a night out will have a “Car to Bar” shoe for occasions where it’s required. Can you imagine the uproar in the media if a celebrity turned up to an event in orthopaedic shoes?
2. Does this mean that flat shoes aren’t the best thing for your feet?
I’d say most people have their fair share of ‘trusty flat’ shoes they keep on hand. For some this means they are needed half way through a night out and for some it’s the shoes they wear every day.
There is a fashion trend at the moment for super flat shoes. My advice is a shoe should have a very slight heel, around 4mm is ideal. Completely flat shoes increase the strain on your calf muscle, so a slight incline relieves this.
Don’t be put off wearing super flat shoes, just be mindful of the time spent in them and not wearing them if you are going to climb a mountain.
3. What are your thoughts on Flip Flops?
Flip Flops are not shoes! Prolonged wearing of flip flops can cause clawing of your toes to keep the flip flop on. Over time this will cause stiffness, pain and in extreme cases may need surgery to correct.
They are perfect for the pool though.
I’m sure you have already guessed what my advice here is; flip flops are fine for certain situations! You just need to be mindful of wearing a pair that don’t cause pain and only wear them for a short amount of time. Flip flops and sandals with a strap across the foot and around the heel are more supportive.
4. If there are all these pros and cons to different types of shoes, should we just go barefoot?
There has been much talk about barefoot walking and running. Being barefoot for short periods of time in a safe environment is fine and can be good for you. It will encourage the intrinsic muscles of the feet to get stronger as you react to the surface you are walking on. However, I’m not a fan of the “barefoot shoes” that have become increasingly available. In my opinion the feet need support and structure when doing activities that may cause fatigue.
5. Let’s tie up the loose ends…
In my opinion there is no such thing as a bad shoe, just the wrong shoe for the occasion. A shoe should be chosen to match your foot type and the activity that you anticipate using the shoe for.
A running shoe is designed for running, whilst a tennis shoe is for a sport that uses the feet in a completely different way. High heels may look great, but climbing Snowdon in them is likely to lead to injury.
This advice seems obvious but we see the issues arising from inappropriate footwear choices in clinic on a daily basis. A podiatrist can quickly assess your foot type and give you the advice you need, just remember we aren’t the fashion police!
If you do have any concerns you can book an appointment with Andrew by calling 029 2054 2509