Sandal Shopping Guide

As we’re getting closer to Spring, we know that most of you can’t wait to finally get back into sandals. As you’re shopping our site for a pair that will give you the best comfort features possible, here are some guidelines to keep in mind for the three most common foot problems.

  1. Pronated Feet – If your feet turn in as you walk, this is called Pronation. For most people the three most important features you should be looking for are good arch support, a wide base (which you can check on our product’s bottom view picture), and some degree of heel elevation to slightly restrict the range of motion of the affected joints. Some great walking sandals for this season that include these features are the Wolky Alula, the Waldlaufer Hanni, and the Taos Desire. For dressier looks, try the new Vionic Lizbeth, the Dansko Joanie, or the Taos Festival.
  1. Heel Pain – If you experience heel pain, the combination of great heel cushioning, arch support to take weight off the heel, and a slight heel lift will usually be the most comfortable. Try the Waldlaufer Hanni, the Wolky Twinkle, and the Alegria Kleo as great walking models, or the Vionic Enisa, the Vionic Alanis, and the Taos Gala for more refined styles.
  1. Metatarsal Pain – If you have pain on the ball of your feet, a shoe with good cushioning, a slight platform and some arch and metatarsal support usually give you the best combination of comfort features. Great new styles to try on include the Alegria Colette, the Wolky Twinkle and the Dansko Drea.

As always, if you have any questions about anything to do with the comfort features of our products and how they relate to your feet, email me at askthepedorthist@soleprovisions.com and I’ll be happy to help in any way possible.

Ask The Pedorthist: Rocker Soles

The concept of having a slight rocker built onto the sole of a shoe has been a common tool used by orthopedists and podiatrist for decades to help propel the foot through the gate cycle. This helps limit the foots ability to turn in, also known as pronation, or turn out, which is known as supination. It also helps “roll” pressure of the ball of the foot where the heads of the metatarsal bones are.

Around 10 years ago, a fad started where these rocker soles stopped being thought of a strictly “theraputic” and started being marketed as “toning”. Now, after several successful lawsuits filed by clients unhappy with their results, shoes with rocker soles have fallen out of favor with more trendy stores and clients, but still have the same amazing theraputic value they always had. Just because they won’t necessarily tone your butt doesn’t mean they can’t offer some kick-butt comfort!

Here are some common foot problems that are often helped with the wear of a shoe with a mild rocker botom:

  1. Ball of Foot Pain:  Because the rocker bottom helps distribute pressure more evenly on the entire foot and helps to “roll” pressure of the ball of your foot, pain in this area is often alleviated.
  2. Pronation and Supination: Because the foot is propelled through the gate cyle ant an accelerated pace, there is less opportunity for the foot to turn in or out.
  3. Heel Pain: Because rocker soles slightly delay heel strike in the gate cycle, and more pressure is distributed onto the midfoot, heel pain from plantar faciitis, bursitis, or heel spurs is often alleviated.
  4. Bunions, Hallux Rigidus, and Arthritis: Because range of motion of the joints between the ball of your foot and toes is restricted by rocker soles, they often aleviate pain associated with joint movement.

Some examples of rocker bottoms we carry are the Waldlaufer Dynamic series, most FitFlop models, and most Alegria models.

Ask the Pedorthist : Platforms

Shoes with platform bottoms are more popular than ever, and this is a great thing for our customers! This type of sole construction allows footwear designers to construct feminine uppers and put them on a sole that provides women all the height she is looking for, but without the pitch usually caused by traditional high heels or wedges.

A normal high heeled shoe has a couple of things working against it when it comes to comfort. First, the surface area provided on the bottom of the heel is usually much narrower than a normal soled shoe. This causes instability that can lead to foot, ankle, knee, and eventually back pain. Second, because none of the height of the heel is balanced with additional height on the sole, the wearer feels every inch of pitch on the ball of her foot. If a traditional high heeled shoe is four inches high, every bit of the weight imbalance caused is transferred squarely onto the ball of the foot.

Shoes with wedges can be slightly better in that the surface area offered on the heel and arch portion of the sole provides more stability than a traditional heel. Although that increased stability is helpful, the result of the pitch is still mostly on the ball of the foot.

Platform soles help with both the instability and pitch issues. For stability, platform soles offer the same increased surface area as wedges, but the extra build up of the sole that makes it a “platform” is what really helps make the shoe more comfortable. Most platform constructions that have four inches of heel height will build up the sole two to two and a half inches. This makes the overall “pitch” of the shoe only one and a half to two inches, distributing much less weight onto the ball of the foot. The result is that the wearer gets four inches of additional height without all the extra pressure on their forefoot, and this is a very good thing for comfort!

Great models of comfortable wedges now in stock are

Vionic Vionic Dansko Wolky
Cancun Grenada Dana Jewel

Heel Heights And Shoe “Gapping”

Flat Shoes

Hearing that a shoe is “too flat” for someone may sound ridiculous since our feet our naturally built with flat heels, but with the increasing popularity of flats and ballets, many people are learning this can be a real problem. It is usually obvious that a flat isn’t ideal for a certain type of foot when there is significant gapping on the lateral side or outside of the shoe. This happens when a foot is pronated or “turns in” and is not getting enough support.

What many people don’t understand is that a 1-1.5″ heel is actually ideal for a pronated foot, because it restricts the foot’s ability to turn in. Very often the problem a flat foot has with gapping in a flat shoe disappears with a slightly higher heel. When you put a pronated foot into a flat shoe with limited support, however, both of these variables combine to accentuate the gapping effect. Much worse than the aesthetic damage is the ankle, knee and back pain that can come with several hours of wearing. If your feet are pronated and you tend to gap significantly in flats…beware!

The same can happen with pes cavus or “high arch” feet, except that the gapping will occur on the medial or “inside” of the shoe. Because the flatness of the shoe isn’t stabilizing the foot’s tendency to “turn out”, the shoe will gap around the arch.

Higher Heeled Shoes

Gapping in the back of a shoe with a higher heel is another common problem. This is because gravity is pushing the foot forward in the shoe, and the foot isn’t being supported enough in the midfoot to hold it in place. This is especially common with more flexible feet that tend to move around in shoes. Although many people tell themselves when this happens that the heel of the shoe isn’t cut narrowly enough for them, in reality, it’s the midfoot that is too wide and not supportive. This allows gravity to push the foot forward and create space in the back.  As always, a thin strap and a little bit of extra arch support can go a long way in solving heel fit problems.

Ask The Pedorthist: Hammer Toes

Hammer_Toes For those of you that have a painful rigidity in any of your toes commonly known as a “Hammer Toe”, you know that getting a good fit in a closed toe shoe can be a challenge. It seems that every time you have enough room for your toes, the heel fit is too loose, and when you get the heel to fit properly, your toes are getting cramped. This is because hammer toes cause a problem of proportion, as your forefoot now needs proportionately more room to be comfortable than your midfoot and heel. Here’s a few pointers to help you find something comfortable:
  1. Find a shoe with a High Toe Box

    The “Toe Box” refers to the part of the shoe where your toes are sitting. The “height” of the toe box refers to how much depth is built into that section of the shoe. Shoes with more depth in the toe box will give you more wiggle room in the toes. Many styles from the brands Waldlaufer and Dansko typically offer higher toe boxes.

  2. Find a shoe made with soft materials

    Although a shoe made with softer materials won’t typically last as long, it will be much more comfortable for someone with painful hammer toes. Try to find footwear that is constructed with soft, and if possible, stretchy materials so you can fit the rest of the shoe more appropriately without cramping your toes. Check out the Waldlaufer Henni (insert link here) group of shoes for some great casual styles that are made of extremely soft materials.

  3. Find shoes with elastic, straps, or laces

    As I spoke about in m yprevious post about fitting bunions properly, having a shoe with some adjustability built into it will help you provide more room for your toes while enabling you to tighten the arch and heel fitting. Shoes with straps and lace are more popular than ever now, so take advantage while they’re in style and make yourself more comfortable. You’ll find tons of models with adjustability on our site.

    As always, you can email me at askthepedorthis@soleprovisions.com if you have any specific questions.

Ask The Pedorthist: Flexible And Rigid Feet

One variable that is often left unmentioned when discussing what type of shoe is best for someone is how flexible or rigid the foot’s arch structure is. Because the whole reason for footwear is to better “interface” our feet with the hard flat world we’ve created, the type of materials used to execute the interface is very important, and greatly depends on the foot’s ability to work in harmony with them.

Normal feet usually have no problem wearing a hard or soft shoe comfortably, but normal feet are rarely the ones that cause problems. If you covered the bottom of an “average” foot with ink, the footprint would look something like this: neutralprint
Where we start seeing more foot problems, however, is when a foot is unuasually rigid or flexible. The footprint of a foot with a more rigid hi-arch structure, or “pes cavus” foot looks something like this: highprint

As you can see, there is significantly less surface area to bear the weight of someone’s entire body, so the amount of pressure per square inch is greater than the “normal” foot pictured above. Since it is pretty amazing that a normal foot can withstand the weight of our entire body, a pes-cavus foot type is bound to have problems commonly associated with this disproportionate weight bearing. Heel spurs, corns, and severe callusing are all very common for these type of feet.

So how do we best redistribute the weight? If we can bring the hard walking surface “up to the foot” to help bear weight on areas that are not naturally making contact with the ground, we will effectively be redistributing the weight more evenly. This is what orthotics and footwear with great footbeds accomplish. By using arch and metatarsal support to “fill in” the spaces on your foot that aren’t normally bearing weight, they help spread out the body weight your feet deal with.

Now that we understand one reason why good footbeds are important, we need to talk about the kind of materials they use, and why some are better for more rigid feet. If you can imagine taking two pieces of concrete and rubbing them together, you can start to visualize what needs to happen to interface a rigid foot with a hard walking surface. You need something soft in between! If we bring the floor up to a rigid pes cavus foot using hard materials, you will have much less chance for comfort than if those materials are soft and forgiving. Since a rigid foot can’t “wrap around” a hard walking surface to increase the area for weight bearing, you need something soft in between to “wrap around” the foot. A nice high arch made with soft compreshionable materials works perfectly to keep that rigid foot happy. The kind of footbed offered by brands like FitFlop and Vioninc with Orthaheel usually work perfectly!

On the other side, how do we handle a flexible pronated foot where the footprint looks like this? flatprint

As you can see by the footprint, it’s not as much a problem of increasing surface area for weight bearing as it is stabilizing the midfoot. The most common problems that people with this type of foot suffer from are ankle, knee and back pain caused by over-pronation or their feet “turning in”. So how are we going to keep these flexible feet more stable? You guessed it….more rigid materials. If we try to support a noodle with another noodle, we don’t accomplish much. The same goes for flexible feet. A nice firm footbed with great arch support like the ones found in Naot and Birkenstock (coming soon!) can be ideal!

As always, now one rule works for every foot, but for the majority of people soft insoles work best for rigid feet and vice versa.

Ask The Pedorthist: Problems with Proportions

Bunions and Hammer ToesIf you have a painful bunion or hammer toe, you know how hard it is to find a closed shoe that leaves enough room for your toes without falling off your heel. This is because shoes are designed to fit an almost perfectly proportioned foot, and any type of forefoot issue throws off the proportion between the volume needed for the front of your foot and your heel. In other words, you may need the volume found in a size 10 in a particular style for the section of your foot from the ball to the end of your toes, but a size 8 for a proper heel fitting.

So, how do we compensate for this “problem of proportion”? ADJUSTABILITY! When trying to find a style that will fit you better, try to find shoes that have a strap or lace to help hold your foot in the middle rather than squeezing your toes. This also helps keep your foot from sliding forward in the shoe when there’s a little extra volume, which holds your heel back for less slipping.

For style suggestions, check out the the Waldlaufer Hindru Mary Jane, the Waldlaufer Glee Oxford, the Orthaheel Myla, and the Alegria Paloma. These are all popular styles that are great looking and have the adjustability needed for a good heel fit without cramping your toes.

Have a question for our Pedorthist? Email us at askthepedorthist@soleprovisions.com and we’ll write you back, and maybe even publish your question and our answer on one of our upcoming blog posts.

Ask The Pedorthist: Heel Pain

 

plantar_fascitits_heel_pain_heel_spurs

One of the most common foot problems we hear about from our clients is heel pain. Whether it’s been diagnosed as Plantar Fasciitis, Heel Spurs, or Bursitis, it all amounts to terrible discomfort when walking, standing, and even just those first few steps when getting out of bed! The most common cause of all types of heel pain is having too much of your overall body weight distributed on your heels instead of being spread out more evenly along the entire surface of your feet.

The fact that we are able to balance our entire body weight on the relatively tiny amount of surface area on the bottom of our feet is absolutely amazing. What enables us to do this naturally and without pain is the ability of our feet to contour to the soft surfaces like earth and sand that make up much our natural world. As our feet “sink in” to these walking surfaces, our body weight is naturally distributed on the full surface area of our feet.

Unfortunately, the flat, hard walking surfaces our modern world has created are horrible for this natural ability to have our feet contour to the ground we’re walking on. This is why footwear is such an important “interface” to help absorb shock and bring the ground up to the different arches of our feet to redistribute weight more evenly. Heel pain is one of the unfortunate signs that your footwear isn’t doing this effectively enough.

Two of our favorite brands here at Sole Provisions are Orthaheel and FitFlop because of the amazing “interfacing” footbeds both incorporate into their footwear. The strong, supportive arch built into the Orthaheel orthotic footbed helps fill the natural medial arch in our feet to distribute weight more evenly while it realigns the foot and helps control over-pronation. When the foot is kept from over-pronating, there is less “pull” on where the connective tissue in our arch, or “plantar fascia”, inserts into our heel. The combination of less pressure on the heel and less pull on the plantar fascia provides amazing relief for heel pain.

FitFlop uses a combination of great arch support and multi density cushioning to achieve the same result, along with a mild rocker sole that further enhances the more even distribution of weight. As the foot “rolls” through the gate cycle, pressure is diffused and the arch isn’t given the opportunity to pronate as severely. Countless numbers of our customers swear by the FitFlop Microwobbleboard footbed as the only shoe that has brought them relief of their foot pain.

If you are experiencing heel pain, or any other foot pain caused by poor distribution of body weight along your feet, we highly recommend giving one of these great brands a try. They’re stylish, reasonably priced, and have amazing comfort features. As tens of thousands of our customers will attest, the most frustrating foot problems can often be helped by a simple change in footwear.

To check out our selection of shoe models that help with Plantar Fasciitis, Heel Pain and Heel Spurs, click here.