Naturally Rockford: Taking steps to find shoes that fit

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BLOOMINGTON, Minn.—Forcing your foot to conform to the shape of a shoe can only lead to future health concerns. Foot, ankle and toe problems are becoming a public health issue, leading to 11 million visits to physicians’ offices in 2003 and costing Americans $3.5 billion a year, according to the National Center for Health Statistics.

“When the foundation of your body is thrown off by improperly fitted shoes, stresses are transmitted above that, often leading to knee and back pain. In this case, it may be time to take a closer look at your footwear and learn how to replace them with shoes that fit right,” says Ryne DeVries, DC, an assistant professor and faculty clinician at Northwestern Health Sciences University in Bloomington, Minn.

According to the American Chiropractic Association, back pain is the second most common reason for visiting the doctor’s office, and some experts say as many as 80 percent of people will experience a back problem at some time in their lives. “If you do have a shoe-related foot problem that is causing you knee or back pain, it’s important to see a chiropractor for an evaluation,” says Dr. DeVries. “A chiropractor can do rehab-type exercises and foot and ankle analyses that help determine what type of shoe, meatatarsal pad, or orthotic device you might need, dependent on your condition.”

However, Dr. DeVries says preventing a foot problem before it occurs is the best advice. He suggests these tips to ensure your shoes fit properly:

Measure the length and width of your feet. “Initially, it’s not about finding the right size, it’s about finding the right measurement, which determines the size you need,” says Dr. DeVries. “Since no one measures feet anymore, people think they are a certain size when they are not. If a shoe is too long, your shoe can get creases in unusual places, and if it is too short, your toes hit the end.”

Proper cushioning. “Good cushioning is essential for effective shock absorption and is especially important for those individuals who work on their feet,” adds Dr. DeVries. “When cushioning in shoes breaks down and substantial heel wear occurs, it’s time to replace them.”

Buy from a reputable shoe store. “Buy from a knowledgeable salesperson who is aware of all the models and types of shoes available and how certain sizes reflect the measurement of your feet,” says Dr. DeVries.

Buy two pairs of the same shoe. “By purchasing two pairs of the same shoe and alternating them, you allow for one pair to rest and for any perspiration to evaporate. This increases your footwear’s longevity and decreases the stress on your feet,” adds Dr. DeVries.

Buy sports-specific shoes. “Athletic shoes are designed specifically for each sport,” says Dr. DeVries. “For example, court shoes, used for basketball, are made for lateral, side-to-side movements, while running shoes are made for forward movements. Buying the wrong shoe may not provide you with enough support, may lead to more wear and tear, and may increase your risk for injury.”

Use orthotics with caution. Orthotics are available both over the counter and custom-made. “Orthotics are not for everybody because if the wrong one is used, it might throw them off and create imbalances. All shoes, to some extent, have a certain amount of arch support, and if you select the right shoe and right fit, orthotics may not be needed,” says Dr. DeVries.

For runners, learn the biomechanics of your stride. When you land on the outside edge of your foot, it rolls inward, which is called pronation. “Learn if your foot rolls in too much (overpronation) or too little (underpronation), to find the proper running shoe to stabilize your stride and compensate for these biomechanic imbalances,” says Dr. DeVries.

Minimize use of high-heeled shoes. “Wear shoes with shorter heels because these tend to cause fewer foot problems. For example, a 2-inch heel causes fewer problems than a 4-inch heel,” says Dr. DeVries. “These types of shoes tend to be narrower and can increase foot pain, so it is important to minimize their use by wearing a shoe more kind to your feet whenever you can.”

For additional information about health screenings, go to, a Web site focusing on natural approaches to health and wellness hosted by Northwestern Health Sciences University.

from the April 18-24, 2007, issue

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