The inside track . . . shoe fitting

Published: 2011-06-28 10:52:48
Author: Jill Halstead, as told to Laura Barnett

A poll of 2,000 people for the Society of Chiropodists and Podiatrists found that footwear, such as high heels and even ill-fitting trainers, could be behind a surge in cases of osteoarthritis, a condition that causes pain and stiffness in the joints of the foot.

Such research isn't straightforward – older people are asked how often they wore high heels in their 20s; I'd find that quite difficult to remember – but I do agree with the broad thrust.

We know that wearing high heels increases the pressure on the ball of the foot, and that this can lead to foot pain and, possibly, to osteoarthritis. What most people don't think about, though, is that shoe width is as important as the height of the heel – wearing shoes that are too narrow can lead to bunions and hammer-toes. From around the age of 20, most of us don't even think about changing our shoe size, but the size of your foot does change – so it's important to keep getting your feet measured.

It's important not to wear heels every day: for daily use, choose a shoe with a round toe and a heel of less than an inch. For a special occasion, wear a round-toe and a wedge heel: this places less pressure on the ball of the foot.

Also make sure you choose the right style of trainer for the activity you're doing: wearing the wrong sort can cause injury and increase the stress placed on joints. Lace-up running shoes provide the best support: it's best to wear those if you have a manual job, or even for a walk in the park.

The key issue is fit: be sure to choose shoes that are comfortable, and you'll be well on the way to helping prevent osteoarthritis.