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10 tips for finding the right shoes

When shoe shopping, you want to have more than fashion in mind — you’ll also want to consider function and keeping your feet in good shape. These 10 tips can help you choose the right shoes:

  1. Take a tracing of your foot with you. Place any shoe you think you might buy on top of the tracing. If the shoe is narrower or shorter than the tracing, don’t even try it on.
  2. Shoe shopping during the afternoon — your foot naturally expands with use during the day.
  3. Wear the same type of socks to the store that you intend to wear with the shoes.
  4. Have a salesperson measure both of your feet — and get measured every time you buy new shoes. Feet change with age, often growing larger and wider. If one foot is larger than the other, buy a size that fits the larger foot.
  5. Stand in the shoes. Press gently on the top of the shoe to make sure you have about a half-inch of space between your longest toe and the end of the shoe. This provides enough room for your foot to press forward as you walk. Wiggle your toes to make sure there’s enough room.
  6. When shoe shopping around in the shoes to determine how they feel. Is there enough room at the balls of the feet? Do the heels fit snugly, or do they pinch or slip off? Don’t rationalize that the shoes just need to be “broken in.” Find shoes that fit from the start.
  7. Trust your own comfort level rather than a shoe’s size or description. Sizes vary between manufacturers. And no matter how comfortable an advertisement claims those shoes are, you’re the real judge.
  8. Pay attention to width as well as length. If the ball of your foot feels compressed in a particular shoe, ask if it comes in a wider size. Buying shoes that are a half-size bigger — but not any wider — won’t necessarily solve the problem.
  9. Feel the inside of the shoes to see if they have any tags, seams, or other material that might irritate your foot.
  10. Examine the soles. Are they sturdy enough to provide protection from sharp objects? Do they provide any cushioning? Take note of how they feel as you walk around the shoe store. Try to walk on hard surfaces as well as carpet to see how the shoe feels on both.

Consider different factors for different shoes:

Athletic shoes: There are four types of running shoes: Motion control, stability, neutral/cushioning, and minimalist. The correct shoe for you is based on arch type and biomechanics. One way to test the shoe is to walk and jog in it. You can also balance on one leg and do a one-legged squat. The shoe should feel comfortable right away and these tests should feel easier in the right shoe.

For court sports, a sport-specific shoe is better than a running shoe because it will provide more side-to-side support. For cleats, it can be helpful to pick a shoe that allows you to add arch support.

Minimalist shoes are used for forefoot running to simulate “barefoot” running. To avoid injury, it’s best to slowly add time and to get guidance for proper form.

Sandals: Flip flops are good for short distance walking only. Choose sandals with straps that cover more of the foot and/or wrap around the ankle. 

Boots may fit loosely and not provide adequate foot support. Adding arch support can improve comfort.

Women’s dress shoes are often detrimental to feet, knees, and spines. Heels alter whole body posture and can cause pain. If you wear heels, pick a lower heel shoe, a wider heel or wedge, and a heel that does not curve in. Wear higher heels when you have to, then switch to lower heels if you have to walk any distance.

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