Published: 2011-10-24 07:59:01
Author: Sarah Scarpa

 Fall brings beautiful foliage, brisk weather and a wardrobe full of cozy sweaters and fuzzy socks you probably forgot you owned. But if there’s one thing I can’t stand about this time of year, it’s breaking in new shoes, especially boots. I have to mentally prepare myself for the hell those first few wears are going to bring.

There’s gotta be a better way, right?

“You should never have to break in a pair of shoes. It’s all about buying the right shoe for the right activity,” says podiatrist Mallory Eisenman, who sees patients in Center City and Northeast Philly. “If you buy a pair that doesn’t fit, the shoe will always win.”

We have 26 bones in our feet, she says, more than any place in the rest of the body. The feet act as the body’s foundation, and taking improper care of them can imbalance the rest of the body and cause pain not only in your feet, heels and ankles but also in legs, back and neck.

So finding a shoe that fits—and not just looks—right should be your top priority. Shoes should be fitted to the longest toe—be sure to check; your “big” toe isn’t always the longest—and there should be about a thumb’s distance between the end of the toe and the shoe. The fit should be such that the foot doesn’t move too freely inside the shoe—that’s when irritation starts and leads to problems.

Never substitute length for width; the shoe’s natural bend should always correspond to the widest part of the foot. And be aware of height heel, and only wear what you can handle. A stiletto that’s too tall can tighten up the muscles in the back of your leg and cause shin splints.

If you continuously jam your feet into shoes that are too small, there’s a good chance you’ll develop corns, calluses or bunions, which could lead to more serious problems like bone spurs, joint pain and arthritis.

You should put new shoes through their paces at home for a while before you take them outside. “Wear them around the house for an hour straight,” says Eisenman. “If it doesn’t feel good after that, return them.”