If the Shoe Doesn't Fit...

Rohde Photo


(As seen on Fox 2 Detroit “The Ladies Room”)

Thursday, 26 Mar 2009, 3:48 PM EDT
By Dr. Rachel Rohde
Beaumont Hospital - Royal Oak


What’s the last pair of shoes you bought? We might not all be like Carrie Bradshaw from “Sex and the City,” shopping for Manolo Blahniks that add 4” to our heights and subtract several hundred dollars from our bank accounts, but shoe shopping has become a favorite pastime for some of us! Notice how we never heard the SATC girls complain about pain in their feet, knees, or back, or that their orthopaedic surgeon had mentioned surgery?

The truth is that whether they are beautiful or not, if your shoes don’t fit, you could be inviting problems. According to the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons, more than 7/10 women have developed a painful foot deformity. This isn’t surprising if you know that 8/10 women say that their shoes hurt, and 9/10 women are wearing shoes that are too small for their feet! This can cause deformities like hammertoes, bunions, and other painful orthopaedic issues that can become so disabling that only surgery will help!

How can you avoid falling victim to your footwear?

Save your shopping for the end of the day. Feet are most swollen at the end of the day; this will give you a better size estimate.

Size matters. Remember when you were a kid and used to stick your feet in those metal sizers? Believe it or not, it still is important to be measured! Stand during measurement because feet expand with weightbearing. Yes, feet do change size with age, too! Ask a salesperson to measure both feet; they might not be the same size. Buy shoes according to the longer and wider foot. You can add an insole to the side with the smaller foot but there is no such thing as breaking in a shoe that is too small!

How do I know if it fits? Walk around in shoes to make sure that they are comfortable. They should not be too tight; there should be about ½” between the end of your longest toe and the end of the shoe and you should be able to wiggle your toes within the shoe. However, you don’t want them to be so big that your heel is slipping out of them!

What is the importance of soles? Soles are like shock absorbers. Think of the difference between walking through the mall in athletic shoes versus shoes with heels of wood. Softer soles absorb shock better.

But heels are OK, right? Here is the sad news for those of us who adore our high heels and pointed toes: the higher the heel, the greater the pressure on the front of the foot, and narrow “toe boxes” cause deformities like bunions and hammer toes. In fact, the AAOS recommends limiting heel height to 2 ¼ inches.

The most important thing to remember is this: the shoe should conform to the shape of your foot, and not vice versa. Your feet will thank you…now and later.

For a free "If the Shoe Fits, Wear It" brochure, call the AAOS public service telephone number (800) 824-BONES or send a stamped, self-addressed (business size) envelope to:
"If the Shoe Fits, Wear It, " American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons, P.O. Box 1998, Des Plaines, Ill. 60017


Dr. Rachel Rohde is an orthopedic surgeon who specializes in treatment of musculoskeletal conditions of the upper extremities including the shoulder, elbow, wrist and hand. A native of Michigan, she completed her training at Harvard Medical School, the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, and Hospital for Special Surgery in New York City. She has published and presented her research at national and international conferences and recently authored a text, Acute Management of Hand Injuries. She is on staff at Beaumont Hospital in Royal Oak and is a partner in the Michigan Orthopaedic Institute.