Shoe Buying Tips for Children and Adults
By Dr. Tim Fargo, Chiropractor
It’s that time of the year again, and kids are going back to school. One of the sacred rites of back-to-school, in addition to the purchasing of pencils, pens, paper, glue, and now iPads, is the trip to the shoe store. At least, in my recollection of going back to school in the 60s and 70s, we ended the summer by going shoe shopping. I thought, in honor of that tradition, to give you a few tips about buying shoes for your kids, and also for yourself.
First of all, I want to let you know that shoes are important. There was a time when we essentially walked barefoot and on uneven terrain. Our feet were strong, resilient, and capable of carrying us tirelessly for miles. Now, in our concrete world, we wear shoes almost from the very beginning, walk on hard and mostly even ground, generally carry too much weight on our bodies, and are progressively afflicted with foot problems with aging. Let’s just grant that we have to wear shoes, especially in Minnesota. That being the case, let’s do what we can to make sure that they allow and foster proper function, not just for the foot itself, but for everything above. Foot function influences the ankle, knee, hip, pelvis, and the rest of the spine. This is what is known as a “kinetic chain”. These body parts all move together.
As your foot strikes the ground it usually does so on the outside of the heel; this is the most stable position for absorbing the shock of walking and running. If you don’t believe me, just look at an old pair of shoes and see what the heel looks like. Then, as you move to the stance phase of walking, where all parts of the foot are on the ground, the ankle tends to roll in (pronate) and the arch tends to flatten. This phase of gait allows for maximum shock absorption. When you then toe off, the foot and ankle roll back again to provide a firm lever for pushing off. This, in simple terms, is how a foot should function in walking. I am describing this so you understand what a shoe should actually do. If a shoe prevents this normal motion, then it will send repercussions throughout the body. Shoes are often too narrow in the toe box to allow the forefoot to spread naturally and distribute weight properly. A lot of the shoes that are currently available in the athletic category are too soft and have very thick soles with poor support in the heel counter (the cup around the heel). These shoes tend to exaggerate this oscillation of the foot during walking and running. Don’t even get me started on flip-flops and high heels, which should simply be avoided at all costs.
Here are some tips on shoe buying:
- They should feel comfortable right when you put them on. Do not buy shoes with the idea that “they will break in”. What will more likely happen is that they will break you in.
- Make sure you have some wiggle room in the toe box.
- The shoe should have sufficient arch support to control the motion of the foot in walking and running.
- Don’t buy shoes just because they “look pretty or sexy”.
- Shop for shoes in a place where the sales staff are experienced and knowledgeable. I particularly like Schuler Shoes in the Twin Cities. They have a wide selection of sensible and supportive shoes, and their sales staff is also knowledgeable.
- Buy shoes that are appropriate for your particular needs. Some people can get away with shoes that have less arch support, for example. For other folks, that support is more critical. The key here is to get to know your feet, and the doctors at Chiropractic Health and Wellness can help in this regard. Have one of us take a look at your existing shoes, your callous patterns and the general alignment and function of your feet.
- Be willing to spend a little bit more to get a better quality product. As previously mentioned, there are few things as important as good shoes. Yes, I know that I am now sounding like your grandmother. She should know because she ruined her feet and now knows better.
- Once you buy a pair of shoes, bring them into our clinic to have them tested. We can save you a lot of money, and sore feet, by making sure the shoe fits and that they work for your body.
Whether it be that you are buying shoes for running, or just for knocking around, if you follow the above guidelines your fee will be happier, and so will you. The doctors at Chiropractic Health and Wellness are trained to evaluate foot function and gait, as well as footwear. We are happy to help you and your children make healthy and prudent shoe buying choices.
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