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3 Key Shoe Features For The Best Foot Health

Flat shoes are becoming a go-to style these days, and there is a good reason for that. Simply put, anything with a heel can play some secret havoc on our long term health. 

Among the many issues associated with wearing heels are stress fractures, bunions, plantar fasciitis and hammertoes.

According to the APMA (American Podiatric Medical Association), people should not wear heels over two inches and should avoid wearing wedges with significant rise from toe to heel.

Ok, we get it. Buy something flat, and we are good right? Not so fast! Not all flat shoes are created equal, especially for people who have prior foot conditions such as chronic swelling, neuropathy and toe issues. Below, we have sourced top podiatrist tips for identifying the three key features in flat shoes to keep you feeling snappy and your feet healthy.

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Key Feature #1 Avoid a tight shoe

With the onset of the athleisure style shoes, it is clear the footwear industry has finally changed its habit of demanding that women wear tight shoes with narrow toe boxes. Research has shown that tight or ill-fitted footwear can lead to tripping hazards and a host of other insults. Women’s shoes have evolved to have shorter heels and a wider base. These changes have had a positive impact on comfort and fit.

“The two main problems with people’s footwear are poor fit and heel elevation,” says Hylton Menz, Podiatrist, and Professor of Biomechanics.

When you’re looking for a shoe, seek a shoe that avoids a tight fit anywhere. Toes should have their own freedom. If they’re pinched or squished, look at a different size or a different style. Another place many Pandere customers find challenging is in fit through the midfoot. If you are able to get a shoe on in the morning, and by the end of the day, the shoes are exacerbating swelling over the course of the day, look for a different shoe.

A 2018 study published in the Journal of Foot and Ankle Research reports, “Between 63 and 72% of participants were wearing shoes that did not accommodate either width or length dimensions of their feet.” The authors concluded, “A large proportion of the population wear incorrectly sized footwear, which is associated with foot pain and foot disorders.”

Pandere Founder Laura Oden says, “When I am sizing someone based on foot measurements, I want to have somewhere in the neighborhood of ½ inch of space between the longest toe and the end of the shoe. Some people can tolerate a little more than that, and of course, there are some that don’t want that much space at the end of the shoe. At the end of the day, there is an enormous amount of variability in what an individual determines as comfortable. There is no substitute for trying on the shoes, walking around your house for a few hours, and getting a good feel for whether the shoes will work or not.” 


Key Feature #2 Look for removable insoles

Orthotics (insoles or footbeds), whether over the counter or custom orthotics that have been prescribed, can be the best friend to finding the perfect fit. Again, there is a large variation in what people need. Orthotics can really help to customize fit by addressing your specific requirements.

If you are looking for the perfect fit, or if you have specific needs like additional arch support, or improved joint function, orthotics can seal the deal with a customized fit underneath your feet. One study by the Canadian Agency for Drugs and Technologies in Health showed that effectiveness of over the counter orthotics were similar to that of custom orthotics. Both were found to “reduce pain and improve the function of the foot and quality of life”.

If you have never worn orthotics before, consider a trip down to your local comfort foot store and try some samples in your shoes or a visit to your podiatrist. The right orthotics can improve a lot more than shoe comfort. Orthotics can improve everything above the foot - from the ankle joints and knees, all the way up the spine.


Key Feature #3 - Shock absorbent construction

The purpose of shock absorption is to dissipate the massive amount of kinetic energy that enters your body with each step. If you can also imagine that each individual foot must absorb the force of your weight with each step, you get the picture of how important shock absorption is in a shoe. Shock absorption can be found in the materials in the outsole (the bottom) and the insole (footbed). Materials to look for include TPR (thermoplastic rubber), recycled rubber, or high quality PU (polyeurothane).

PU bottoms are lightweight, but they often wear quicker. Rubber or recycled rubber bottoms can be a little heavier, but they last a lot longer. Natural rubber (latex) is extracted from the rubber tree.

TPR is man-made from the polymer SBS (Styrene-butadiene-styrene). TPR is naturally latex-free and is safe for patients who are sensitive or allergic to latex. Shoe constructions that provide both shock absorbancy and some flexibility when walking are best for protecting joints and reducing impact.

If you’re looking for a latex free choice, Pandere’s Two Step, Globetrotter, and Clog all have TPR bottoms.

Insoles provide another layer of shock absorbancy which assists in cushioning the foot from further assault. When you remove an insole, press your thumb and forefinger to squish the heel area. There should be some cushion and give. If there is nothing there at all, then the insoles will not provide any additional shock absorbancy. Most athletic shoes have thin floppy insoles that give little if any support.

Caution, lots of people with pain in their feet feel like they need more cushion. It would be better to seek advice from a podiatrist before trying to get a super soft or squishy insole. This can actually aggravate a lot of pain problems. Too much cushion (and it doesn’t take much!) can often wear out the feet more and make the muscles in the feet work harder.

All of Pandere’s expandable styles incorporate the important key features listed above to create better fitting, healthier footwear options.

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If you have swollen feet, you don't have to suffer with ill-fitting shoes. The best shoes for people with swollen feet are wide or extra wide styles that can be expanded in the midfoot, ankle, and toe box area so that each shoe can be easily tightened and loosened as needed throughout the day.