Steve Cooper, a master fit technician for The Athlete’s Foot, has been fitting feet for over 20 years. We put your shoe-shopping questions to him.
Q. What’s the biggest mistake people make when buying shoes?
Buying shoes that are too small for them! Women are often guilty of this. When you wear a shoe that’s too small, your feet bend in a place that’s not ideal. A small shoe is also going to be too tight across the metatarsal head (the top of the foot), so little nerve endings and veins there can get squashed, causing your toes to tingle or go numb. A lot of shoe stores simply rely on the size you tell them you are, even though it might not be correct. To avoid wearing the wrong size, have a qualified store assistant measure your feet every time you shop for shoes.
Q. How can I tell that my shoes needs replacing?
People generally look at the soles of their shoes to determine wear, but this is not a good indicator. Instead, do these three checks:
1. Look for wrinkles
Look at the thick middle layer, or midsole. This area usually shows wear first. Over time, the midsole develops small creases, or wrinkles. This is a sign that the foam has lost its sponginess, which means that the shock of your foot hitting the ground is travelling directly into your joints (rather than into the shoe). If you can see more than five of these creases in your shoes, they should be walking towards the bin.
2. Bend it
The bend test is another great way to see whether you should replace your shoes. Try bending the shoe at the forefoot. It should bend one way well—the way your foot bends when you step. If you can bend the shoe as easily in two directions (both up and down), you need to get rid of them.
3. Look at yourself
Do you often suffer from walking or running injuries? Do you have pain in your feet or knees? Wearing old, worn-out shoes can be a factor in all these things.
Q. I wear orthotics. What should I consider when shoe shopping?
If your orthotics are already providing the support your feet need, you have to find a shoe that complements what the orthotics are doing. If you wear orthotics, it’s very important to consult your podiatrist or a shoe-store salesperson when looking for the right shoe. Otherwise, you’re at risk of overprescribing and causing even more problems.
Q. How do I know if my shoe-fitter is reliable?
It’s vital to have an experienced and qualified fit technician fit you. A good shoe-store assistant should ask specific questions (similar to those below) to ensure they’re serving you properly. If you’re unhappy with their service, look elsewhere. Shoes are a very important purchase—you need the right assistance.
The Right Questions
What type of activities do you participate in?
What kind of shoes have you been wearing?
How often will you wear the new shoes?
Do you have any problems with your knees or feet?
What are your recent and long-term injuries?
Do you walk on hard or soft surfaces?