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Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Comfortable Dress Shoes - what to look for...

A general overview of what you're looking for in a comfortable dress shoe...

1. You need a thick rigid sole to limit motion across the forefoot and midfoot.

2. Depending on your foot type, you can wear heels - the trick is to wear a wedge heel so that there is no motion across the bottom of the foot. If you have a condition called Hallux Limitus (meaning limited range of motion across the big toe joint) you will be limited on the heel height or  you may not be able to tolerate a heel at all. 

3. No pointy toes!! Look for a dress shoe with a square-toe box because the "cockroach killer" pointy-toe shoe's are a little bunion factories. If you have more serious forefoot problems like bunions and hammertoes, you can get shoes that have an "extra-depth toe-box" or has a soft, stretchable material across the forefoot area. 

4. Very important - try to get a dress shoe that gives you some form of rearfoot control - whether it be with a strap or an enclosed heel. If you are not biomechanically controlling the rearfoot - you are forcing your tendons, muscles, joints as well as your knee, hips and lower back to work harder to stabilize your feet.  

5. Arch control. Sometimes this is hard to find in dress shoes but they are out there. If the dress shoe has a removable insole, you can often put in a over-the-counter or custom-molded insert. Sometimes the dress shoe already has arch support in the shoe. 

Special Note: It is a common fallacy to think that your foot needs freedom and motion. Your foot actually needs rigid biomechanical control. If you are walking barefoot or wearing flip-flops or a flexible/flimsy shoe - you will have more motion across your joints, which will cause more inflammation, pain, wear-and-tear (osteoarthritis and degenerative joint disease) that will not only put you at risk for foot problems but also knee, hip, and lower back pain. 

Remember, no matter what the shoe, this is what most patients will benefit from a dress shoe with:
1. Thick, rigid sole.
2. Firm arch support.
3. Wide toe-box.
4. Rearfoot control (strap or enclosed back).  

There are always some exceptions to the rules. For instance, older patients or patients with certain neurological diseases need to have a lighter shoe. Also, Dansko shoes, which are excellent for people who have to work on hard surfaces for long hours, typically do not work as well for patients who have "bumps" on their feet such as bunions, Tailor's bunions and extremely high arches. 

I hope this is helpful! 

I would love to hear any thoughts, feedback or comments...

Dr Cathleen A McCarthy