If you’re buying shoes for a particular activity or leisure pursuit – like some serious walking or playing sport – or you need special shoes for work, there are some things you should take into account.
The working foot is rarely at rest, sometimes covering as much as 15 miles a day. If you're on your feet a lot, well-fitting, comfortable shoes with durable, flexible, hand-made soles are best. Think about your working conditions too. Wet, cold, indoors, outdoors: they should all be taken into account when you're buying shoes for work.
Good walking shoes should leave a gap of up to 12mm between the tip of your big toe and the end of your shoe. To avoid rubbing and possible problems with corns, they should be wide enough to allow your toes to move freely and deep enough to allow your toes to move freely and deep enough to prevent them from pressing against the upper part of the shoe.
Leather uppers are not only hard-wearing, but will mould well to the shape of your foot - allowing feet to breathe and helping them to keep cool and reduce sweating. Lace-up fastenings are best, keeping your heel firmly in place, stopping your foot from slipping.
Whether it’s walking the dog or a five mile jog, it’s easy to forget the toll that exercise can take on your feet. Making sure you wear the right shoes for an activity will help enhance your performance, while reducing the risk of injuries and common complaints like corns and calluses. If you’re playing a particular sport always make sure you choose the right footwear for that activity.
Most women have at least one pair of high heels in their wardrobe, but you can have too much of a good thing. Walking everyday in heels for more than six months without a break can cause the calf muscle to become permanently shortened, which in turn can adversely affect the knees, hips or back.
To avoid this, try not to wear heels for long periods, or ideally save them for special occasions. For everyday wear stick to heels that are no more than 4cm high or alternate the height of heels you wear from day to day.
Calf stretches can also help by keeping your feet supple. Stand facing a wall with your feet hip-width apart and slightly bent at the knee. Take one step forwards, and using your arms to lean against the wall, keep your leg in front bent and the leg behind straight. Both feet should be flat on the ground. Lean in towards the wall. As you do, you should feel your muscles stretching in your calf and heel. Hold and slowly return to a standing position. Do this five times with each leg.
size is important!
You probably know your shoe size off the top of your head – unlike fashion, it’s unlikely to change throughout your adult life. And even if you can’t remember whether you’re an 8 or an 8½, isn’t close enough OK?
The answer is a very definite ‘no’.
Why? Because even though your feet are fully formed by the time you’re old enough to vote, badly fitting footwear at any time in your adult life can still do serious damage to your feet.
finding the perfect fit
Your shoe size is based on both the length of your foot and the measurement around the foot at its widest part. Some people have one foot slightly longer than the other - this is perfectly normal. Many people also may not fit into a standard 'whole' size, which is why half sizes are so important.
When trying on shoes, you should check that you can move your foot normally and without restriction. make sure there's enough room to allow your toes to wriggle; there's enough depth, so the upper doesn't rub the tops of your toes; and when you walk a few steps they don't pinch or rub.
Ideally, the front part of the shoe should follow the natural shape of your toes and not be too pointed. There should be a space of about 1 1/4 cm between the end of your longest toe and the end of the shoe. This lets the foot stretch out during the walking and helps prevent damage to your toes and toenails.
caring for your feet
It’s never too early or too late in life to start caring for your feet. Get into the habit and they’ll start caring for you – helping you avoid some of the troublesome ailments badly treated feet can bring – from lower back pain to headaches, and even indigestion!
To give your feet a daily dose of TLC, try these simple steps:
Wash your feet every day in warm soapy water. Don't soak them, as this might destroy the natural oils. And dry them thoroughly, especially between the toes.
If your skin is dry, apply moisturising cream all over the foot, except between the toes.
Lightly apply a foot powder.
Change socks, tights and stockings daily.
Gently remove hard skin with a pumice stone. Remember to take care over bony areas and joints.
Trim toe nails regularly, using proper nail clippers. Cut straight across, not too short, and not down at the corners as this can lead to ingrowing nails.
Keep your feet warm, and improve circulation with regular exercise.
Seek prompt treatment for burns, cuts and breaks in the skin, or any unusual changes in colour or temperature. This is particularly important if you have diabetes.
Work, rest or play, always wear the right shoes for the occasion. For more information, take a look at our guide to buying shoes.