When I was 21 I took my first steps towards a career in pedorthics when I got a job fitting shoes at a large sporting goods retailer. Although shoe sections in chain stores are often staffed by “shoe fetchers” I was very fortunate to work alongside an expert shoe fitter. He taught me about biomechanics, lower limb pathologies and foot function and that selling shoes was far more than grabbing the size a customer asks for. With the fantastic base he provided, I went on to become a C. Ped Tech (C). Today my interest in shoe fitting remains stronger than ever.
Although it sounds unbelievable, the majority of Canadians wear the wrong size shoes. Some people consciously purchase ill-fitting shoes because of vanity, habit or denial; however, a great many people wear shoes that are too big or too small because they are uninformed or misinformed.
The best way to ensure you are wearing properly fitted shoes is to make sure you purchase your shoes from a “shoe fitter” rather than a “shoe fetcher”. A shoe fetcher is a salesperson who simply grabs the size you request. A shoe fitter is someone who measures and assesses your feet before making a footwear recommendation. A trained shoe fitter will check the fit of your shoes in several key areas when you try them on and will ask for your feedback after you have walked in the shoes for a while. Most importantly a shoe fitter will get you to try other sizes and styles if the first pair of shoes doesn’t fit properly.
A shoe that fits properly feels great and allows your foot to function optimally. When your foot functions effectively it acts as its own cushioning device as it efficiently absorbs impact. An improperly fitted shoe can restrict the motion of your foot which in turn prevents your lower limbs from functioning properly. Ill-fitting shoes can also affect the way you walk.
One of the primary reasons people wear ill-fitting shoes is because they think shoe sizing is consistent. However, shoe sizes vary significantly from brand to brand and across styles. Many people also don’t realize that a number of factors can cause their feet to splay, widen or lengthen, including aging, pregnancy and weight gain so their shoe size may change over time.
Here are some tips to help you find shoes that fit you properly:
- Make sure you have at least half a thumb width from the end of the shoe to your longest toe. If you are used to wearing shoes that are too small, it may feel as if your heels are slipping out of a proper sized shoe. A bit of heel slippage is acceptable, and lacing methods, heel pads, and other methods are available to help reduce it.
- If you have two different size feet, either in length or width, always buy shoes to fit your bigger foot
- Check that the flex point (where the shoe bends) is where your foot bends. Usually this is at the widest part of your foot.
- Many shoes brands offer multiple widths and extra depth which enable an even better fit.
- Bend your knee with your weight down on one foot and let your forefoot expand. The sides of your shoe should flex to show a secure fit but not be too snug.
- Always shop for shoes later in the day when your feet have expanded and are at their largest.
Canadian Certified Pedorthists are experts in fitting shoes. If you think your footwear may be causing you pain or damage visit www.pedorthic.ca/find-a-pedorthist/ to find a Canadian Certified Pedorthist in your community.
By Doug Benoit, C. Ped Tech (C), Elmsdale, Nova Scotia