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Ask Your Physical Therapist: Are the shoes I am wearing to blame for my foot pain?

Are the shoes I am wearing to blame for my foot pain?

The answer is, they could be…. There are a number of ways that foot pain can be related to the type of shoe that you are wearing.  First of all if your shoes are too short or too narrow (both of which are very common) this can lead to toe deformities and or pressure on the nerves that travel between your toes causing numbness and tingling in the toes.  If the shoes are too narrow, a deformity can occur at the big toe in which the big toe drifts in toward the other toes.  When this occurs, the 2nd toe also can become deformed as it attempts to get out of the way of the big toe.  In addition, as the big toe drifts over, a bunion (extra bone growth) can form on the inside of the big toe (which makes it even harder to try and find shoes that fit. )  Wearing shoes that are too short can cause the toes to take on a claw-like appearance as they draw back away from the front of the shoe.  Another common problem that occurs when the shoe is too short is “black toe-nails” which occurs due to bruising under the nail, as the nail is repeatedly jammed into the front of the shoe.  In this case, eventually the nail may fall off.

So how do I make sure I am in the right size shoe for my foot?

There are a few simple steps to follow when trying to achieve the proper shoe fit:  The first would be to find a shoe store such as Appalachian Running Company that uses a brannock device to properly measure the width and length of your foot in an accurate manner.  In addition, this store will observe your foot position in standing and watch you walk to be sure you are in the proper shoe for your foot type.  Next, when a shoe fits properly, there will be 1/4th to ½ inch of space between the end of the longest toe and the shoe.   In addition, the widest part of the foot should be in the widest part of the shoe with no part of the foot hanging over the base of the shoe in weight bearing.

Certain shoes are much worse than others in regards to causing foot pain.  For instance, “high-heel” shoes are terrible for the foot due to the fact that as the heel is raised up and the pressure increases at the ball of the foot.  This causes stress to the bones at the balls of the foot as well as irritation of the nerves that travel between the toes.  Shoes with a shallow or pointed toe box are also a bad influence on the toes.

If you have further questions about how improper footwear leads to foot pain, please feel free to email me any questions you may have at:

Steve Miller PT, C.Ped is the owner of Cardin and Miller Physical Therapy in Carlisle.