How to Choose the Right Shoes for Your Specific Needs
There's a reason why the majority of us own a closet-full of shoes—different events and activities call for different footwear. However, identifying the shoes that best fit your overarching lifestyle (pun intended!) is an important step towards the best-possible foot health and body alignment. Doing so definitely requires a quick assessment of your day-to-day—but, more importantly, it first requires an understanding of the geography of your actual feel. Ahead, Dr. Velimir Petkov, a board-certified podiatrist at Premier Podiatry in Clifton, breaks down the type of shoe you should be wearing based on your foot type, gait, and activity level—and shares that the perfect pair of shoes really does exist.
If you have overpronation (the arch of your foot rolls inwards or downwards while you walk) and you're an active person, you should shop for running shoes with plenty of stability. "[People like this] tend to have flat, flexible feet," explains Dr. Petkov, which is why they should look for shoes with good anatomical arch support to evenly distribute impact while moving. "Shoes with structured cushioning at the mid-soles will often feel more comfortable and give you that soft pillow-like effect while providing good support."
If you have flat feet (or fallen arches), Dr. Petkov recommends avoiding flat shoes: You should always purchase footwear with additional arch support that can stabilize the foot as you walk. He also recommends investing in premium insoles with air cushioning—or custom orthotics with extra padding in the mid-foot area.
If you have high arches (pes cavus), you'll actually benefit from wearing heels—so long as they fit well. Wearing the wrong type of heel for your arches can cause pain to occur on the top of the foot near the mid-foot joints, where most of the foot and ankle ligaments and tendons attach, leading to inflammation, and in some cases degenerative arthritis. The shoe type to avoid at all cost? Flip-flops, notes Dr. Petkov.
Anyone who is on their feet—either standing or walking—for the majority of their days should be particularly careful when selecting shoes and ultimately invest in pairs with the best-possible support. "Standing on your feet for more than four to six hours a day places stress on [your] muscles, ligaments, and joints," he says. "Excessive walking or standing around, especially on hard surfaces such as concrete or tile, can result in muscle fatigue and joint and heel pain."
The Heel Conundrum
If you're wondering where heels fit into this equation—and you don't have high arches—Dr. Petkov has an answer: They're fine in moderation. "High heels affect your gait by pushing the center of gravity forward," he explains. "That, in turn, takes your hips and spine out of alignment." The higher the heel, the more pressure gets placed on your foot. He suggests limiting the amount of time spent in this shoe type—and recommends alternating between different heights and shoe styles and stretching your Achilles tendons.
Believe it or not, Dr. Petkov says the ideal sturdy, yet lightweight pair of shoes that provides the best shock absorption actually is a heel: two-inch heels, he says, are typically designed for day-long comfort. Just don't forget about the insoles, he says: "Soft knit lining with moisture management helps maintain freshness."