What is a Supportive Shoe?

We podiatrists are always advising patients to use supportive shoes, but what do we mean by that? What should you be looking for when you buy a new pair of shoes?

  • Not too much flexibility

A supportive shoe will only bend at the toe and shouldn’t bend anywhere near the heel. The sole also shouldn’t twist too much. Most good shoes and trainers will conform to these two things. Some softer trainers will twist and bend in these places. You can still wear these shoes, but be aware they aren’t offering much support and if you have foot pain, they may not be helping.

  • A fastening as opposed to slip-on

It’s often easier to pick a slip-on shoe, but slip-ons tend to have a smaller toe box to hold the shoe on, which can cramp the toes and leave you open to corns and hard skin. Continual cramping of the toes can also lead to clawed or retracted toes because the tendons have pulled tight and the repeatedly bent toes have developed arthritis.

  • Wide and deep toe box

The toe box is the usually rounded front of the shoe where your toes sit. A lot of modern shoes are tight on the fourth or fifth toes. If the style of shoe is putting pressure on the smallest toes, maybe that style isn’t going to work for your foot. You should also be mindful of the height of the toe box. If you are prone to hard skin anywhere on the toes, more space is always going to help.

  • Double height heel to forefoot

The heel of any shoe is best to be double the height of the forefoot. This is the case in most trainers. Converse style trainers tend to be completely flat which puts more strain on the Achilles tendon and plantar fascia, leaving you open to tendon injury and plantar fasciitis. High heels can be worn occasionally, but continual use will shorten the Achilles tendon. You may then develop problems wearing flatter shoes like trainers.

Of course, these rules can be bent or broken for occasional shoes, but should be followed when buying your most commonly used or work shoes to keep your feet happy and healthy.