Study: Poor Shoes May Haunt Your Later

Poor shoe choices can haunt your feet in years to come, a new Boston University study finds.

Researchers at the university's Institute for Aging Research report that women who chose more comfortable shoes in the past were 67 percent less likely to report hind foot pain.

CBS News medical correspondent Dr. Jennifer Ashton explained this study found that the hindfoot -- roughly, the part of the foot above the heel -- receives the largest shock wave within the foot and at every heel strike.

The primary cause of heel pain is an inflammation of the tissue band connecting the heel bone to the base of the toes, Ashton said. This pain, she said, is generally centered under the heel.

Ashton added poor shoe wear in the study included heels, sandals and slippers, which do not always give you the support you need.

As for high-heels, Ashton cited the American Orthopaedic Foot and Ankle Society, saying they can not only hurt the foot, but can lead to injury all the way up to the back. Most high-heeled shoes, Ashton said, have a pointed, narrow toe box that crowds the toes and forces them into an unnatural triangular shape. These shoes distribute the body's weight unevenly, she said, placing excess stress on the ball of the foot and on the forefoot.

Ashton explained this uneven distribution of weight, coupled with the narrow toe box characteristic of most high heels, can lead to discomfort, painful bunions, hammertoes and other deformities.

Ashton also cited the American Orthopaedic Foot and Ankle Society's recommendation that women should not wear a shoe with a heel higher than 2 1/4 inches. Also, the society recommends women save the use of your high-heeled shoes for functions where you will not be on your feet for extended periods of time; treat them as a limited-privilege accessory.

But how do you prevent future foot pain? Ashton explained common "shoe sins," and what you can do to avoid them in your footwear selection.

SHOE SIN: Walking wounded
According to another study from the American Podiatric Medical Association, nearly two thirds of Americans confess they wear shoes that hurt their feet, Ashton said.

Make sure you buy the right sized shoe, Ashton said, adding, according to the American Orthopaedic Foot and Ankle Society, you need to measure both of your feet because they can vary in size.

Ashton also recommended these tips for finding the right shoe:
- Your feet expand when bearing weight, so stand while your feet are being measured.
- Because swelling during the course of the day can enlarge your feet, have your feet measured at the end of the day.
- Don't select a shoe by size alone. A size 10 in one brand or style may be smaller or larger than the same size in another brand or style. Buy the shoe that fits well.
- Have your feet measured regularly. Their size may change as you grow older.
- If the shoes feel too tight, don't buy them. There is no such thing as a "break-in period." With time, a foot may push or stretch a shoe to fit, but this can cause foot pain and damage.
-You can also do stretches to help your foot pain -- you can get an instant massage by placing a golf ball under the ball of your foot and rolling it back and forth. This will help heel and arch pain or cramps.

SHOE SIN: Selling your sole
According to this study, Ashton said, "good shoes" have a better fit, foot posture and shock absorption characteristics. Good shoes, she said, often have softer insoles that use elements of gel, foamed polyurthethane or air chambers that smooth out the shock wave from walking. The Boston University study found the hindfoot receives the largest shock wave within the foot at every heel strike.

But what about ballet flats?

Ashton said ballet flats are not a good option because of the flatness of the shoe. The soles, she said, don't provide enough cushioning or support, causing injury to your arch and heel.

Ashton recommended looking for shoes with cushioning and have soles that can absorb impact. Another recommendation are gel soles that you can insert into your shoes to offer more support.

As for men, the Boston University study found no relationship between their footwear and foot pain. Researchers noted most of the men reported wearing better shoes. Less than two percent of the men wore "bad" shoe types.


For more information on healthy footwear choices, click here to go to the American Podiatric Medical Association's guide for footwear.
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