Foot Ache? Maybe it’s time for a pair of orthotics… When the shoe doesn’t fit right, tips to wear it
Dear Sharon: Lately, My feet are starting to ache during the day and my shoes just don’t feel like they are supporting me correctly. The pain is really not that bad, more of an annoyance than a real hurt so I’m afraid that if I see a doctor I’ll get screamed at for wearing my heels. Any Advice? (Charlottesville, VA)
Sweetie, I’m a shoe junkie with gnarly feet who is married to a podiatrist— you have come to the right place!
While not the most stylish of subjects, comfy shoes can make all the difference in the world and there really is no need to sacrifice footwear style for fit if you chose wisely. In my house, it’s not the height of the heel but the way the shoe fits your foot that is most important. Everyone’s feet are shaped differently and styles that are comfortable for one can be killers on others. Personally, I find any shoe heel (yes, skyscraper ones too) that securely supports my foot’s entire heel and is contoured correctly to the arch of my foot to be winners. Spindly, more delicate heels with a narrow last are gruesome on my feet after a short amount of time, and my arch is so high, that pancake flats offer no support and strain my feet more than fullback trying to prance in a pair of D’Orsay pumps. That said, sometimes you need a little help to boost the shoes you already own. If your foot ache is chronic or worrisome, you really should see a doctor before a little irritation could develop into something worse.
There are so many different types of over-the counter orthotics, shoe inserts, or arch supports simply because there is a wide variety of reasons that you may need more support, including foot type (high arch, flat feet, correct gait etc.). It is always best to see a podiatrist for chronic pain and, possibly to be fitted for a custom orthotic which is made from a cast of your foot— I have a pair that I wear at the gym and for hiking to provide extra arch support. A middle ground between doctor specified orthotics and drug store versions are custom molded footbeds common in ski boots or high-performance athletic shoes that can provide additional comfort but may not be as technically correct as if you were cast by foot doctor.
Keep in mind that any insert will take up space and you may need to wear a half to a full size larger in shoes. It’s always best if you choose shoes more selectively and opt for a style and brand that has a last which is comfortable for your foot—including high heels. No matter how cute a pair of shoes are, if the last is not compatible for your foot shape, they will never feel right.
The over-the-counter inserts are a great quick-fix for minor discomfort and I’ve always been happy with the well-priced Dr. Scholl’s products, although wish they were a bit more stylishly colored. When shoes turn out to be a bit flimsier in support than I first thought or stretched a bit, I always use Dr. Scholl’s Tri-Comfort Orthotics that are clinically proven to aid in relieving arch, heel, ball of foot, and lower back pain. The Dr. Scholl’s Massaging Gel line including Ball of Foot Cushions, Heel Cups, and Massaging Arch Supports are terrific if you are contented wearing sneaks or rubber sole shoes. The Spenco Performance Gel Insoles come with a sockliner to prevent callus build-up and blisters. Spenco ThinSole Full Length Insoles made with nitrogen-injected material are designed to fit into dressy shoes and act as shock-absorbers for your feet, unfortunately they are the same color as medical scrubs!
On the lighter side, the most style-friendly of the lot are the clear (no sense in covering up that designer label) Insolia High Heel Pain Relief Inserts designed by a podiatrist to shift your weight which can improve body alignment and comfort when wearing high heels. Superfeet EasyFit High Heel 3/4 Insoles are also designed to relieve pressure and pain when wearing high heels. I’m a fan of SummerSoles Ultra Absorbent Peel and Stick Liners that come in fashion colors, plus animal prints— while they don’t provide support, they do make sandals more comfortable. Killer Kushionz by FootPetals are designed to be worn with open shoes and come in a basic, yet chic color assortment.
As my husband, Dr. Michael Scanlon, DPM, Brooklyn and NY, NY mentioned last night, “It’s not that simple– obviously the best thing is to go to a doctor and have an examination to determine what is required. Over-the-counter solutions are more of a quick fix which may help in certain cases. Every foot is different. Every problem is different and there is no one universal solution to alleviate foot pain by way of an arch support, orthotic, or otherwise.”
–May 17, 2008