Our forefathers walked barefoot over all types of rough terrain. Walking barefoot feels natural and liberating. Lieberman and colleagues at the Harvard University, using kinematic and kinetic analyses found that barefoot men ran with a fore-foot and mid- foot strike gait which generated a smaller collision force and fewer stress injuries. This was in comparison to runners wearing shoes with elevated and cushioned heels associated with a rear- foot strike gait and higher incidence of stress injuries.
We have all grown up wearing footwear. We buy footwear more for its appearance, brand and fashion statement rather than comfort. This is detrimental not only to our feet but also to our back, knees and hips. Irrespective of whether we are on our feet all day or not, we should take good care of our feet. The health of our feet is a good indicator of our health in general. Diseases like Diabetes, Arthritis and circulatory problems appear on our feet. There are several ways to care for our feet. Wearing the right footwear is one of them.
• Time of day : Ideally buy footwear towards the end of the day. Our feet tend to swell as the day progresses and can increase half a shoe size in a day.
• Size of footwear: Our foot size changes with age. So measure your foot size every time you buy footwear. Buy footwear which feels comfortable when worn rather than by the size mentioned on it. Ideally buy footwear with half a centimeter gap between your big toe and front of the footwear and half centimeter between your heel and the back of your footwear. Ideally your shoe should not ride on your heel as you walk.
• Many of us have unequal sized feet. Choose footwear to fit the larger foot, if possible.
• Know your foot type and gait. If you have broad feet then choose footwear with a wide width. Do not cram your feet in narrow footwear. Do not expect footwear to stretch and fit your feet later. If you have flat feet, then wear footwear with less cushioning and use arch supports. Those with high arched feet suffer from lateral instability and ankle sprains. So they should wear footwear with more cushioning.
• Wear socks when buying shoes. That way you will know how tight the shoes will fit when wearing socks. There should be enough space to wiggle your toes.
• Avoid buying footwear without soles. A good sole is one which absorbs the impact when the foot lands on the ground.
• Walk after wearing new footwear on both feet. Observe whether they feel comfortable and feel right before you buy
• Walking shoes should be lightweight and breathable. They should have cushioning in the heel and be flexible. For multiple activities like walking, weight training and tennis, use cross trainers.
• Footwear tends to wear out after 6-8 months. Athletic shoes lose their cushioning after 350 -500 miles of walking or running. Our ankles and knees face the brunt of jarring forces without the cushioning leading to stress injuries. Change footwear regularly.