In case you haven’t heard, you no longer have to wear sensible shoes to be comfortable.There are plenty of trend-right looks at a range of price points designed to keep you stylishly comfortable. But determining just which ones offer that extra layer of cushioning or heel support takes an educated eye.
To make it easier to spot styles that will help you avoid foot issues down the road, FN sought the advice of podiatrist Nicholas Pagano of Barking Dogs Foot and Ankle Care in Plymouth Meeting, Pa. While those blush-pink stilettos may be calling your name, think twice before whipping out your credit card.
Since the summer means lots of steamy weather, Pagano suggests opting for shoes with plenty of breathability. “Shoes with liners are there for a purpose,” he said. “You want to wick moisture away.” Shoes with this feature offer come with hang tags so you can easily identify the hidden benefit.
Stay away from the wave of PVC looks designers have been sending down the runways and celebrities have been embracing. “Vinyl shoes keep moisture in the foot, screaming bells and whistles for fungal infections and athlete’s foot,” said Pagano. “Bacteria loves dark, warm, moist places. And increased moisture levels inside the shoe is where warts love to come out and play.”
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However, if you like the look and feel of a lightweight, molded shoes, Crocs does its collection in its proprietary Croslite material. According to the company, it is a closed-cell resin with antimicrobial properties, making it odor-resistant and easy to clean with soap and water.
The warmer weather also calls for more time outdoors, with a walk to work often replacing a subway ride. Here, a pair of shoes that’s supportive yet flexible is essential. “You want something with support but bends at the toe,” said Pagano. “The foot wants to flex, especially in the forefoot.”
To prevent slipping, look for shoes with sole traction. “Outsoles with compressed rubber can grip the ground and eliminate falls and slips,” said Pagano. “When you have a shoe with good heel cushioning and shock absorption, you feel it all the way up to your neck.”These outsoles are typically found in running shoes and look trend-right with just about any apparel choice these days, part of the athleisure movement.
There are two schools of thought when it comes to hard versus soft footbeds for delivering both comfort and support. “I love Birkenstock,” noted Pagano. “It’s the original orthotic. The cork footbed is very supportive when you’re walking by putting the foot in the optimum position. It allows for all 26 bones of the foot to absorb [shock] and propel properly.
However, there’s room in one’s closet for softer, more forgiving footbeds such as those made of memory foam. But when opting for cushioning, Pagano noted these shoes often have a limited life span and need to be replaced, as foams can compress and wear down regardless of their thickness.
It’s likely you don’t need a warning about those inexpensive EVA flip-flops. Although they may make a practical beach look, Pagano explained that they offer little to no shock absorption, and the material easily breaks down. If you’re going to wear a pair of flip-flops, he suggested buying a sturdier pair from wellness brands such as Spenco, Vionic or Abeo that feature contoured footbeds with arch and metatarsal support.
The next rule of shoe buying may sound like a no-brainer but is often neglected. Have your feet measured every time you go shoe shopping, said Pagano. “At 18, everyone thinks their foot will stay the same size,” he noted. “Its important to get your foot measured for width. I end up seeing patients that will buy longer shoes since they don’t have the right width.”
Dr. Pagano also suggests going shoe shopping in the afternoon, when there’s some natural swelling or loosening of the muscles and tendons of the foot. And while it’s easy to buy shoes online, he advises shopping in stores where there are experts in fitting the foot.
Lastly, check your feet on a regular basis for any medical issues. “When washing your feet, make sure you are taking a look at them,” said Pagano. “You may find the shoe you love so much may be causing you damage.”
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