As podiatrists, we often identify our patients' shoes and boots as a cause of their foot or leg pain. Multiple times a day. Sometimes, they've simply selected the wrong shoes. Other times, they have the right shoes - they just became wrong when they wore out a couple of years ago. Some have the right shoes at the right time - but just select the wrong fit or style for their feet.
Unlike choosing clothes where the wrong size or style can have your sweater feeling a little baggier or tighter than usual, making the wrong boot choice can have serious consequences, often ending in pain and discomfort. Hence, we've put together this boot fitting guide for your winter boots this year. (Did we mention we're currently having a boot sale?)
Getting Ready To Buy Your Boots
Consider this your boot-buying warm-up. Start by:
- Selecting socks with the right thickness for what you'd typically wear with your boots. If you have a range of thicknesses, go with the thicker ones - you don't want to try your boots on with thin stockings and then find that your boots rub against your feet when you try them on with your thicker socks
- Waiting until the afternoon to buy your boots - due to natural swelling, this is when our feet are at their largest
- Taking note of your longest toe - it's not always your big toe and can often be the second toe. Use this toe as a measure of whether the length feels right
- If you're an in-between size, try on the larger of the two sizes first
When you're out shopping, remember to:
- Always try both boots on together. Many people have one foot that is slightly longer than the other. Go by the length of the longest foot
- Assess the fit when you're standing, not sitting, as this will take into account the natural biomechanical characteristics of your feet, like rolling down to flatten and widen
Getting The Length Right
Many shoe shops and independent shoe brands will provide you with a measure to help you get the best fit for length in that brand - some even do width, too. Here's an example of a device by Dr Comfort on the right. You simply place your heel at the back of the device, adjust the sliders, and take your reading. More than likely, someone in the store will be on hand to do it for you. For us, it's a complimentary service we provide to our patients and retail customers - because fit matters.
If there's no device - don't worry. Just start with your regular shoe size and go up and down full or half sizes as needed. Try on different sizes as much as you want or need to. Don't worry about sending the retail assistant back for numerous sizes - they don't mind, and they'll have promptly forgotten about it. On the other hand, you will be wearing your boots for a long time - so get the length right first and foremost.
What you should feel is a level of comfort and snugness without feeling pressure, restricting circulation, feeling any toes hitting the edges, feeling rubbing at the back of the heel or from the top of the shoe, or feeling like you're walking abnormally in the boots. Also, make sure you have approximately half an inch (~13mm) of toe room at the front of your longest toe. Make sure your shoes aren't too big either - this can cause callus, corns and blisters.
The Right Width
Next, we ask the width question. Many people we see don't pay attention to the width of their shoes - they either just class them as uncomfy or not suited to their feet if the width fitting isn't right, or just accept the width as non-negotiable and purchase them under the presumption that they'll stretch with wear. Neither is the right option - what's right is talking to the retail assistant about the widths the shoe comes in and trying a few to see what feels best for your feet.
The width should feel snug and comfortable around your midfoot and heel - you want your boot to help support and control the ankle and arch. At the forefoot, the area of your shoe known as the toe box, should have a little more room to accommodate how your toes move when you walk, which may splay out or grip the shoe. It should also fit around any features of your feet, like a bunion or claw toes.
When you have the right width and length, your balance, control, agility and stability is maximised - all features which can reduce your injury and pain risks.
Your boots should support and enhance the healthy natural function of your feet. Just like how our toes bend at the ball of the foot only, your boot should too. Check the integrity of this flexion. What your boot shouldn't do is bend too close to the toes or at the centre of the midfoot - instead, your boot should have a firm midfoot with good support inside the boot to help ease the strain on the plantar fascia ligament and promote good foot function.
Arch Support Or Removable Insoles
Check the inside of the shoe, in the arch of the innersole. Is this providing the right level of support for you?
If you've never had problems with foot pain, heel pain or arch pain, and the boot feels very comfortable, then that's likely all you need to feel confident about your boot choice. If you've had a history of arch pain or know you have a flatter foot type, check the level of support and stability the arch of the boot is offering. If the level is good and feels comfortable, that's what you want. If it seems a little on the thin and unsupportive side, check whether the insoles are removable - you'd expect them to be. If they are, it's a simple fix to replace them with your existing orthotics and get orthotics from your podiatrist.
If the insoles aren't removable, pass on these boots. We don't advise layering an orthotic onto an existing insole - not only can it compromise the function of the orthotic by adjusting the way the orthotic sits, but there may not be enough space in your boot with your shoe and orthotic, leading you down the rabbit hole of fit-related foot problems.
If you're a patient of ours and you'd like your orthotics adjusted to fit into your new boots, bring your orthotics and boots with you to your next appointment with us.
The ankle height of your boots is much more than a fashion statement - it also influences the control and stability around your ankle. The greater the ankle height, the less free side-to-side movement your ankle can perform. This can be great for people who want help to prevent ankle sprains (though it's not nearly as effective as using a device like this brace which is proven to prevent ankle sprains).
The higher the heel on your boot, the more pressure is placed onto your forefoot, which can overload it and lead to foot pain and reduced stability on your feet. However, completely flat heels can also be tough on your Achilles tendon - and even more so if there's any lift in the forefoot (this does happen, we felt it when trying on a pair of casual sneakers in a shop the other day!). Having a heel drop (the height difference between the back of the shoe and the front of the shoe) of about 10mm is what you want to aim for, but see what feels most comfy for you.
The heel counter is the part that wraps around the back of your ankle. The heel counter should be firm enough not to fold in when you push down on it from the outside - that's how you know it's doing a good job of helping support and control your ankle.
We're not sure why this isn't talked about enough - but the weight of your boots matters - a lot! Some boots feature lightweight and slimline materials. Others build their reputation on their hardwearing, protective and heavy nature. If you have had any foot or leg pain or problems, wearing boots that are too heavy, step after step and day after day, can leave you feeling achy and tired much faster - and risk aggravating your previous injury. If you've never had any problems with your feet - you may be absolutely fine. Feel your boots in your hands, consider their weight, compare them with the weight of other boots in the store, and make the best choice for your circumstances.
Consider how frequently you'll be wearing these boots, for what tasks, and how often you may be exposed to the cold and rain where waterproofing may significantly benefit you. Ask about the materials your boots are made of and their level of waterproofing. With this one, don't forget that there are waterproofing sprays and creams for boots available if you need them.
Check the treads and traction at the base of the shoe - is it enough? Are you worried about slipping? Alongside the tread, the wider the bottom of the shoe, the more traction you'll naturally have. If your boot is heeled and there is less surface of the boot coming into contact with the ground, you'll want to make sure it has good traction that you're comfortable with.
South Burnett Podiatry Has A Shoe Shop With Free Professional Fitting Services
We know how important it is to have the right fit from the get-go. Returning shoes after a few days is a hassle and time consuming - and ordering boots online can feel like a lucky dip if you've never had an identical pair before. That's why our retail staff are trained in helping you get the very best fit for your unique feet and any foot problems you're facing.
You don't need an appointment to come in and check out our range. Just visit us at 13 Alford St (Kingaroy) during opening hours.