Your shoes can either be the best friend your heels ever had, or the worst enemy they’ll ever face.
When you consider that spending all day on hard, flat surfaces like wood, concrete, and linoleum is a relatively recent development in human history, you can begin to understand why comfy, supportive footwear can be so important for foot health in modern society!
But you probably also know full well that the wrong pair of shoes will only take you down the road to misery. The trick, then, is figuring out how to find the right pair.
And that’s not so simple even in “normal” times, when you didn’t have to worry about things like masks, social distance, or infection rates. How do you find a pair of shoes that will help you with your heel pain now?
We hope this blog post will be a big help. First, though, we need to talk about what you need to look for in general.
Essential Attributes of the Ideal Shoes for Heel Pain Sufferers
How do you tell a good shoe from a bad one, especially if you’re already prone to suffering from heel pain? Here are a few key things to consider.
- The size. Remember, shoes have both a numerical size (which represents the length of the shoe) and a letter size (width). Both are important things to consider! In general you should always measure your feet before you shop—feet can change size even during adulthood, and tend to get wider and flatter with age (or after pregnancy).
- The fit. Shoes of different manufacturers may not exactly match even if the sizing information is the same, so you really should test the fit (if possible) before you buy. How do you know if the shoe fits? You’re looking for a pair that feels comfy from the get-go, is firm (but not tight) around your heel with no sliding around, wide enough in the ball and toe area for plenty of “wiggle room,” and about half an inch longer than your longest toe.
- The style. We’re not talking in the fashion sense here, but the activity sense—or in other words, running shoes, walking shoes, basketball shoes, cross trainers, etc. The shoes that you wear should always be specific and appropriate for the activities you perform while wearing them.
- The arch support. We know—the pain is in your heel, not your arch. But actually, arch support is also critical for relieving and preventing heel pain. The most common form of heel pain, plantar fasciitis, is caused by overstretching and tearing in a ligament that primarily supports the arch. When you support the arch, that ligament (the plantar fascia) is less likely to pull and strain against the heel bone.
- The heel counter. A sturdy heel counter will also help minimize stretching and straining on the heel. (This is the insert, usually plastic, that surrounds the back of the heel in a shoe.) Grab the end of the shoe and try to collapse the heel counter with your fingers—it should hold its shape fairly well without folding.
- The sole. Good shoes for heel pain should have a nice, rigid, thick sole that absorbs impacts and helps you transfer weight smoothly. Thick soles are usually better than thin ones, and you shouldn’t be able to twist the shoe easily. For people with more severe heel pain, rocker bottoms on the soles may be a good choice.
Shoe Shopping Challenges Due to COVID-19
Obviously, there are some concerns about whether now is really the right time to get new shoes, or go to a shoe store. While this blog will give you some general advice, it’s no substitute for carefully reviewing all relevant guidelines from the state and the CDC, or calling us (or your PCP) if you have any concerns.
When it comes to finding and fitting shoes, being able to test the fit yourself is ordinarily something that we strongly recommend. No two pairs fit exactly alike, so the size printed on the label is just the starting point. And a shoe that doesn’t fit is a shoe you shouldn’t wear—plain and simple.
If you do make it out to the shoe store, make sure you’re taking the proper steps to keep yourself as safe as possible—including wearing a mask, social distancing, bringing along some hand sanitizer, or even some wipes for the foot measuring device.
If you aren’t comfortable leaving home or it isn’t safe for you, we can tentatively recommend online ordering or curbside pickup. However, be ready and willing to send the shoes back and get a different size if they aren’t quite what you need. Finding an online retailer with a generous return policy is strongly advised.
Either way, trying on your shoes later in the day is encouraged. Your feet tend to swell a bit by evening time, so you want to make sure your shoes are still comfy even when your feet are a little larger than normal.
You Aren’t Alone!
This all being said, while the right pair of shoes can often make a huge difference in your symptoms, it’s not always possible to solve your heel pain with “off the rack” footwear alone—especially if your foot structure itself has some quirks or abnormalities.
Our team is going above and beyond to make sure you get the care you need safely, without taking any unnecessary chances with your health. Telemedicine is available and a great choice if you can’t travel or won’t necessarily need any direct treatment from us at a given appointment. And if you do need to come in, understand that we are taking extensive measures to keep our office clean and sterile.
Don’t let heel pain take the fun out of your everyday life! If your shoes aren’t cutting it, give us a call and see what your options are. Almost all cases of heel pain can be resolved non-surgically, primarily through treatments you can manage at home!
Just request an appointment online, or call the office closest to you:
- Twin Falls: (208) 733-0436
- Burley: (208) 678-2727