Shoes and Your Aching Feet

If your feet are a pain in your life—take a look at the shoes that you are wearing. Do you spend your days wearing high heels? Do your shoes really fit? When was the last time you had your feet measured before you bought a new pair of shoes?

A woman with her heels off rubbing the back of her ankle
Seb Oliver / Getty Images

Paying Big Bucks for Shoes that Hurt

High heel shoes and improperly fitted shoes cause health problems such as bunions, heel pain, and deformed toes, as well as nerve damage. A survey found that most women are tired of wearing shoes that hurt their feet. The women in the survey paid from $50 to $200 for the shoes that are hurting them.

Foot Symptoms Indicate Health Problems

Your feet are often a good indication of your general health. Swollen ankles can indicate congestive heart failure. Feet that are insensitive to pain and temperature can be a sign of diabetes. Cold feet may be symptomatic of circulatory disease and clubbed toenails may indicate chronic respiratory disease. The next time your healthcare provider says "take off everything but your socks," be aware that he may be missing some of these signs of disease. Not only does wearing improper shoes hurt your feet, but knee problems can also result from wearing such shoes.

Best Shoes for Women's Comfort

According to the American Orthopaedic Foot and Ankle Society, women should wear shoes with a height of no more than two and a quarter inches and that even shoes at these heights should be worn no more than two or three hours each day.

Wearing heels frequently for long periods of time can shorten the Achilles tendon over time and causes a loss in the range of motion in your feet. Shortening of the Achilles tendon is responsible for the disproportionate number of American women who suffer from heel pain.

Buying Shoes That Fit

Selecting properly fitting shoes is the first step to eliminating foot pain. Don't pick your shoes because the tag says they are your size—try them on and buy them based on how they fit on your foot. If you haven't had your foot measured in five years or more, you should measure the next time before you buy shoes; feet can change size and shape over the years. And don't measure just one foot—measure both feet. Your feet may be different sizes, and you should buy your shoes to fit the larger foot.

Buy your shoes late in the day when your feet may be slightly larger. If your shoes fit properly, there will be 3/8" to 1/2" of space between the end of your longest toe and the tip of your shoe when you are standing up. Don't expect a tight pair of shoes to stretch to fit your foot; if you do you are asking for foot pain later on. Shoes should have rounded toes that allow your toes room to 'wiggle.' Pointed shoes often give women toes that overlap and create extreme pain later in life.

Stretching Your Feet

Exercises that help prevent and relieve foot pain include home exercise programs that stretch the Achilles tendon and plantar fascia stretching. Performed regularly, these simple exercises can help reduce the pain in your feet.

The Future of High Heels

The good news for women, according to a survey by the AOFAS, is that a majority of women are no longer wearing shoes over one inch to work on a daily basis, and fewer than 3% of women are wearing shoes with a height of more than 2 and one-quarter inches. Twenty percent of women report wearing athletic shoes to work. Fashion magazines typically feature women in stiletto heels, but the truth is the average woman won't be spending much time these days in such uncomfortable and foot deforming shoes.

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7 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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Additional Reading
  • How to Wear High Heels to Avoid Injury. American Orthopaedic Foot & Ankle Society.