Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Healthy Habits in 2013 - Those Shoes

For most of us in the western world, shoes are seen as a necessity.  They are also one of the things that can make or break our health habits or our whole day.

Habit #6: Invest in Some Good Shoes


As women, many of us have a love-hate relationship with shoes.  We need them and if they fit well, they are great.  If you're like me, you dislike trying on shoes and some of those current styles - wow!  I don't have a clue who they are made for but they're definitely not made for me! :)

As a Jazzercise instructor, I often get asked about shoes and I go through about 4 pair of aerobic shoes each year.  As someone who is on my feet all day and has to look nice, I have my own preferences for "dress" shoes.  I know one thing I've discovered between those two things: Having the right shoes can make or break what I do in a day.

We've all had the pair of shoes that look great but make our feet hurt after about 10 minutes in them.  Or that give us blisters.  Or that flop around.  Or just plain don't work - they're too loose, or too tight, or they rub wrong or they don't breathe or something.  Maybe we can't put our finger on what exactly, but the shoes just don't work.

Especially when money is tight, it's easy to go with cheap or cheaply made shoes and just lump it.  Personally, I think that's a huge mistake.  Our feet our so important to our whole body!

Wearing ill-fitting or painful shoes effects the way we walk and stand. 
This in turn effects the way our joints, ligaments and muscles line up.
Which can lead to far more serious problems down the line.

My dear cousin Diane had to go on disability at the young age of 42 because of not getting the prescribed orthotics for her shoes.  Why, you ask?  She permanently messed up her back to the point where she couldn't do much of anything for quite a while.  Yes, her back.  Because of her shoes.
Go figure.

Here are some hints and tips about shoes to consider:

Buy the right shoe for the right activity.  Do you run? Buy a running shoe.  Do you walk?  Buy a walking shoe.  Do you do aerobics? Buy an aerobic shoe.  Do you walk, play pickup basketball occasionally, and sometimes do other active things (take the occasional class, etc.)?  Buy a good cross trainer.   And, by the way, if you're taking any kind of fitness class, make sure you have the right shoe for the class - your instructor should be able to tell you the best shoe to buy.  The way your foot lands for all of these is different so the cushioning in the shoe is in a different place.  Having the cushioning in the wrong place can cause more harm than good.

Get your foot measured!  This is particularly important if you're still growing (kids and teenagers) or if you've just had a baby (those pesky ligaments!) or if you've never been measured before.  Remember that the shoe size, like your clothes size, is just a number.  It does not tell the world anything about who you are as a person, just what size shoe will fit properly on your foot.  You will also find out if you have a wide or narrow foot, flat or high arch, or a narrow heel or anything else that you need to look for.  My feet are pretty normal, thankfully, but even if they're not, we live in a time where there are so many different shoe types available that you should be able to find something that fits well and looks nice.  Remember shoes should not pinch or rub when you buy them - if they do they don't fit! And shoes should never have to be "broken in" either.  That's another sign that they don't fit right.

Get orthotic inserts if you need them.  Yes, they are expensive but you only need one or two sets (depending on what you do in your life) and they last a long time.  And they can make the difference between short term savings on the orthotics themselves and long-term loss of ability and the mountains of medical bills that can accompany that.  On the flip side, please make sure you definitely need them before you get them!  John had a recommendation for orthotics from our GP and when he went to the podiatrist, the podiatrist recommended a particular brand of shoe instead. 

Stay away from the super-high heels.  I don't know about you, but I've noticed that it's really hard to find heels that aren't super-high.  Those super-high heels do nothing good for your feet, ankles and knees.  And they are hard to stand and walk in to boot.  Lower heels (1 1/2 inches or less) or flats with support are far better for your feet than those high heels.

Buy quality.   I stick with nationally known, long-term brands that are known for high quality.  Why?  I know how they work and that they will wear well. They tend to last at least two years before they start to look icky or wear out and that means I need to buy fewer pairs per year - I tend to buy 2 pairs per year. I also buy natural materials - usually real leather.  It wears far better than the synthetics and are much easier to care for. Shoes should also have a sole that bends with a push but is thick enough that you can see it.  Many of our flip-flops and ballet shoes today have soles so thin that they offer nothing more than protection again scrapes.  Many of our other shoes have soles so rigid they can't bend with your foot's natural movement.

Shop clearance.  The problem with high quality shoes - they do cost more if you pay full retail.  There are discount stores and coupons and deals. Always.  They usually only happen a couple of times a year - John buys his shoes on Buy 1/Get 1 sale once a year and buys two pairs at that time. I usually shop season-end clearance at a discount chain and have gotten some great deals - Naturalizer pumps for $14 are my favorite bargain.    Being a little more open on style is helpful for this, but you should be able to get something for less than retail, even if it takes a bit of looking.  Remember that you don't need to own shoes for every outfit - two or three pairs in classic styles and neutral colors will go a long way.

Take care of your shoes.  Good quality shoes need to breathe.  They need to be cared for regularly with polish and buffing (if necessary) and they need to be kept dry.  These things are fairly straight-forward and not at all time consuming, even though they sound like it at first.  A tub of shoe polish lasts for a very long time and you can use an old sock - you know, one of those lonely ones that returned from the dryer without a mate - to polish and another old sock to buff, though a buffing brush does give the shoes a nicer shine.  Shoe trees or racks are relatively inexpensive and do a good job of caring for shoes.  If you only have a couple pair of shoes, sitting them on the floor of your clothes closet is a good alternative to a shoe tree.  An inexpensive spray coating can protect shoes from water, salt and snow.  Or you can buy a good pair of boots and change into your shoes when you get where you're going instead if you live in a climate with weather extremes.  Not only do these help longevity of the shoe, but they keep the shoe fitting the way it should over the life of the shoe.

Hopefully these hints and tips (and that's exactly what they are - nothing more!) will help you think about your future shoe purchases and, in the process, help yourself lead a better and healthier life!

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Lea