Shoes

Anatomy of a Shoe

Understanding the basic construction of shoes will help you make more informed decisions and select shoes that fit your foot and needs.

Shoes are made up of five major components:

  • The toe box is the tip of the shoe that provides space for the toes. Toe boxes are generally rounded, pointed, or squared and will determine the amount of space provided for the toes.
  • The vamp is the upper middle part of the shoe where the laces are commonly placed. Sometimes Velcro is used instead of laces.
  • The sole consists of an insole and an outsole. The insole is inside the shoe; the outsole contacts the ground. The softer the sole, the greater the shoe’s ability to absorb shock.
  • The heel is the bottom part of the rear of the shoe that provides elevation. The higher the heel, the greater the pressure on the front of the foot.
  • The last is the part of the shoe that curves in slightly near the arch of the foot to conform to the average foot shape. This curve enables you to tell the right shoe from the left.

The material from which a shoe is made can affect fit and comfort. Softer materials decrease the amount of pressure the shoe places on the foot. Stiff materials can cause blisters. A counter may be used to stiffen the material around the heel and give added support to the foot.

What to Look For

  • Avoid shoes that have seams over areas of pain, such as a bunion.
  • Avoid shoes with heavy rubber soles that curl over the top of the toe area (such as seen on some running shoes), because they can catch on carpets and cause an accidental fall.
  • Flat shoes (with a heel height of one inch or less) are the healthiest shoes for your feet. If you must wear a high heel, keep to a heel height of two inches or less, limit their wear to three hours at a time, and take them off coming to and from an activity.
  • Laced, rather than slip-on shoes, provide a more secure fit and can better accommodate insoles, orthotic devices, and braces.
  • Look for soles that are shock absorbing and skid resistant, such as rubber, rather than smooth leather.
  • Shoes should be made of a soft material that has some give.

 

Your Footprint

When you take a step, your foot typically hits the ground heel first and rolls toward your toes, flattening the arch slightly. As you push off the ball of your foot, your arch springs back and does not touch the ground. That’s how normal feet are supposed to work. Unfortunately, many feet aren’t normal.

Overpronation occurs if your foot rolls too much toward the inside. This can cause arch strain and pain on the inside of the knee. Underpronation occurs if your foot rolls too much to the outside. Underpronation can lead to ankle sprains and stress fractures. You can relieve foot pain by compensating for these tendencies, but first you need to determine which way your feet roll.

One method for determining which kind of pronation you have is the watermark test: Put your feet into a bucket of water, then make footprints on a piece of dark paper.

  • If your footprint looks like an oblong pancake with toes, you pronate excessively or may have flat feet. Try molded-leather arch supports, which can be purchased in many drug stores. And when shopping for athletic shoes, ask a sales clerk for styles with “control” features—soles designed to halt the rolling-in motion. If arch supports or sports shoes don’t help, please contact our office for a custom-molded orthotics.
  • If there’s little or no connection in your footprint between the front part of the foot and the heel, you under-pronate or have a high arch. This means a lot of your weight is landing on the outside edge of your foot. Ask for “stability” athletic shoes, which are built with extra cushioning to remedy this problem. If you are prone to ankle sprains, wear high-top athletic shoes that cover the foot and ankle snugly to minimize damage from twists.

 

Wear Patterns

Examining old shoes before buying new ones can help you evaluate your wear patterns and buy new shoes with a better fit and style that compensates for the stresses you place on shoes.

What are your shoes trying to tell you? Here is a translation of basic wear patterns:

  • A bulge and wear to the side of the big toe means too-narrow fit or you have a bunion.
  • Outer sole wear means you turn your foot out. Orthotics may help.
  • Toe-shaped ridges on the upper means your shoes are too small or you have hammertoes.
  • Wear on the ball of the foot means your heel tendons may be too tight.
  • Wear on the inner sole means you pronate or turn your foot inward. Inner liners or orthotics may help.
  • Wear on the upper, above the toes means the front of your shoe is too low.

 

If you have questions or need assistance, please contact us at (904) 291-4885.