Comfortable shoes might not always be the best looking option, but they are the path to better health.

Consider the average human walks more than four times around the world in a lifetime. Is that something you would want to do in shoes that are too tight, or which force your feet to do something they weren’t designed for?

Badly fitting shoes can cause joint pain, calluses, bunions, toe and heel damage. Uncomfortable shoes can also lead to painful ingrown toenails.

For people with arthritis and diabetes, the wrong shoes can make things much worse. For people who work outside, ‘safety’ shoes might be anything but, if they’re the wrong size or design.

For athletes, the right footwear is also very important.

Even if all the walking you do each day is to and from a car, your shoes are the interface between your body and the world. From your feet to your spine, everything is connected, for better or worse.

Shoe factory – Pixabay

Let there be shoes

Shoes are a relatively recent invention, in terms of evolution, and some people think they do more harm than good, however well they fit, but humans started wearing them for a reason, and the right shoes for the right activity are tools that help us achieve things we can’t achieve without them.

The problem is that feet are as unique as fingerprints, as Cinderella found out. Unfortunately custom-made shoes are not an option for most people.

Because many shoe-buyers prioritise appearance over function, one study from 2018 found that as many as 72% of people are wearing the wrong size shoes.

Badly fitting shoes can cause nerve damage (pins and needles are a warning sign that shouldn’t be ignored) and even breathing difficulties, according to this UK study.


What about heels?

For all their claims of sexiness, high heels are a particular culprit in the shoe department, as they tend to make wearers more vulnerable to muscle and joint deformities. If they’re worn constantly, the Achilles tendon that supports ankle muscles can be permanently deformed.

At the opposite end of the spectrum, some very squishy, springy shoes can also cause problems, with modifications to the curve of the natural toe spring engaging the wrong muscle groups in walking feet, which can cause long term problems.

The answer for most people seems to be relatively flat, lightweight shoes that protect from environmental hazards but don’t deform the natural shape or walking action of the foot.


Try before you buy

In the age of internet buying, where the appearance of things can sometimes matter more than what they do, it’s important to remember that every manufacturer’s sizings are slightly different, and shoes that look cool might not actually be fit for purpose.

There are strong arguments for going old school and testing shoes before you buy, if possible, or at least measuring your feet once or twice a year to check for changes (they will change slightly over the years as tendons tend to relax).

Surprisingly, your feet even change size and shape during the day, especially when walking, running or playing sport. As you change and your activities change, your shoes might need to change too.

Speaking of change, there are also many ethical issues associated with shoe manufacture to consider, but that’s another story!

Crocs in their natural habitat


David Lowe