THE BLOG
10/05/2010 01:16 pm ET | Updated Nov 17, 2011

Shoes, Your Best Friend or the Enemy?

Ladies, now that it is Fall and the weather is beginning to change, so is your shoe wardrobe. A new season has arrived. Closed shoes and boots, here I come! So how long can your feet survive in closed shoes before they are kicked off under a dinner table? That is the million dollar question.

Sometimes, shoes can be categorized by the length of time one can wear them, five, fifteen, thirty or sixty minutes. Women spend thousands of dollars each year on the latest or hottest designer shoes at their favorite shoe stores whether they are comfortable or not. Buying shoes is not always about comfort, it is more about what shoes go with what outfit. However, once in the closet these shoes become the enemy. They can cause blisters, unknown bumps on toes or the back of the heel bone (pump bumps), arch cramps, skin irritations (corns and calluses) and pain, "Ouch!" Fortunately, not all shoes cause these types of foot problems, just the ones that usually go with most outfits!

Gone are the days in most areas of the country where women can get away with wearing open sandals, slides, flip flops or backless heels every day and dine in comfort unless you live in warm weather climates. The reason why it should be an endless summer for your feet is because sandals, slides, flip flops and backless heels are more comfortable to wear. They accommodate many of the different lumps and bumps that feet have. Strappy sandals are great for women who have foot problems such as bunions or hammertoes (crooked toes). Bunions and hammertoes develop because of unstable foot biomechanics (abnormal pronation) which weakens the muscular structure around first metatarsal and lesser metatarsal joints.

Bunions are a bony prominence on the side of the great toe (head of the first metatarsal bone) that can be very painful in closed shoes. They develop because of a muscle imbalance around the great toe joint. The soft tissue surrounding the great toe joint weakens and the arch collapses causing bunions to form. Hammertoes are bumps on the top of the 2nd through 5th toes and rub the top or side of the shoe. They are also caused by a muscle imbalance in the feet. The long plantar flexor tendons on the bottom of the foot that attach to the ends of the toes are stronger than the long extensor tendons which run along the top of the foot and attach to the ends of the toes. This imbalance causes the toes to bend downward causing hammertoes to form. Pump bumps (retrocalcaneal exostosis) are bone spurs that forms on the back of the heel bone due to excess motion of the rear foot in the shoe. Women with narrow heels are predisposed to this condition. During the gait cycle shearing forces or friction can occur along the back of the heel bone when you are walking in closed shoes. This can ultimately lead to developing bone deposits in the back of the heel.

Foot problems can be genetically predetermined. Looking at your grandparents and parents feet can give you a tremendous amount of insight in why those lumps and bumps have appeared. When your foot hits the ground all the joints and muscles in your feet have to adjust to the forces created by your walking. Therefore, your feet can slide in shoes causing friction, developing corns and blisters on the tops or ends of your toes or thick calluses on the balls of your feet. It is the movement of bones rubbing against each other or against one of the shoe surfaces like, in closed shoes. Strappy sandals can fit around the bunion and hammertoe deformities and not irritate it. Closed shoes are less accommodating and potentially cause more problems.

Solutions: To extend the length of time you can wear your shoes because of a lump here and a bump there look for closed shoes made of soft leather. The leather would mold around bony prominences in the foot and not irritate the skin. Another way to create more room in a shoe is taking it to a shoe repair shop to have them stretch that part of the shoe that causes the irritation. Doctoring up shoes has been going on for years and years. Putting insoles in a shoe, moleskin around toes, heel protectors along the lining of the back of the shoe or a metatarsal pad in the front of the shoe to take up room is helpful especially if you have narrow bony feet. Custom made orthotics or over the counter foot products like Instant Arches® are very helpful in providing support, comfort and often times prevent foot slippage. Preventing sliding in shoes will reduce friction minimizing corn and callus development. The internet is now a great source to find new products on the market to help solve these problems as well. If you need professional help consult a podiatrist in your area.

So, for those women who live in cold weather climates, summer is only 10 months away.

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