Your footwear can make or break you. A foot consists of longitudinal and transverse arches that form the fore, mid and hind sections. The surface area of our feet takes six times the body weight so they need to be well supported with proper footwear. When we stand, the center of gravity falls down to the spine and then gets distributed to the legs and finally, to the feet. So it’s important for feet to be laterally flat, elevated at the heel, with sole arch supported. When we walk there is something called the gait cycle that consists of the ‘heel strike’ (the foot is down), the ‘stance phase’ (evenly flat), the ‘heel off’ (back of the foot goes off the ground with body weight on the fore foot), the ‘toes off’ and the ‘swing phase’ (where the foot goes off the ground and the other foot takes up the ‘stance phase’). According to research, an average person takes 8000-10,000 steps a day (that’s about 1,15,000 miles in a lifetime, so why opt for a wrong shape and walk towards a health disaster?
1. Know Your Step: Choosing footwear calls for some knowledge and care. If you have medical problems, check with your doctor. You may need medical or orthopedic shoes. If not, at least enlighten yourself. Usually, the choice of shoes depends on the way you walk, the foot arch and pressure or shape of the sole when wearing shoes. As you walk, the arch of your foot moves up and down. This movement, called pronation, varies from person to person. It’s either less, more or extreme and it decided how much support your shoes need top give you.
Try This: Stand barefoot on the floor. Keep your feet flat and slightly less than shoulder width apart. Now, bend your knees and while doing so, feel the arch of your foot with your fingertips. If you feel slight movement, then you’re a mild or neutral pronator; extreme movement indicates heavy pronation (there’s an inward roll of the foot, the heel and the arch) and very little or no movement means you’re showing supination.
2. How Curvaceous Are You? Next, recognize your foot arch. You can either be flat-footed, medium or high-arched. A simple way to find out is to step into water and gently stand on a flat surface. Check the mark your sole makes. If the entire foot leaves a print, you’re flat-footed; if the side, the top and the heel impression shows, you’re normal-arched, and if only the fore foot, the heel and the toes leave prints, you’re high-arched.
3. Last But Not The Least: Now, comes the trying-on and buying part. The ground rules are:
– Shop for shoes in the afternoon, as feet tend to swell a little during the day;
– Don’t forget to measure your feet every time you buy a pair (your shoe size might change with time and other body conditions)
– Wear and check the fit of your shoes on both feet (one foot is usually larger than the other), and always wear your new pair and walk before emptying your pockets.
– You should choose footwear in which the heel is a little higher (for easy ‘heel strike’), the mid-sole (arch) is cushioned or supported (in ‘stance phase’, this arch is elevated), while the fore foot area should be soft and broad (for ‘toe off’ and finally, ‘heel off’).
– Remember when you wear it, your foot takes the shape of the shoe (called the ‘last’, as the process of making the insole and upper part of the shoe is called ‘lasting’) and this affects the comfort factor. If you’re normal-arched, you can go for semi-curved forms; if you’re flat-footed, have a low arch or are a heavy pronator, try the straight-last ones.
– And finally, if you’re high-arched, the curved forms well suit you best.