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Choosing footwear

Feet come in all sizes and a variety of shapes. The foot is a strong, flexible but complex structure, containing 26 bones plus tendons, muscles, ligaments, as well as blood vessels and nerves.

To protect this marvellous part of our body, we enclose it in shoes. But too often, we choose our footwear for style rather than comfort and function. Many foot problems are aggravated by the use of unsuitable footwear.

Remember – good shoes are part of the good care your feet deserve. To help prevent damage to your feet, consider the following points when you buy footwear.

  • It is important to have footwear that fits correctly. Our feet do change so adults too should have feet measured.
  • Your chiropodist/podiatrist may have provided you with special insoles or orthoses to help with your foot problem. These should be worn all the time you are on your feet. You should take these with you when buying shoes.
  • For some people it can be difficult to buy shoes because of the shape of their foot or they may have specific needs due to a medical condition. In these cases, the hospital may provide specially made footwear. These shoes should generally be worn all the time, indoors and out. Any queries concerning hospital provided footwear should be made to your supplying orthotics department.
  • Slip-on style shoes tend to be a snug fit and may cause injury to the skin as the foot swells during the day. Generally, they should be avoided.
  • Slippers are not recommended for regular use. They are unsupportive and offer limited protection to your feet. It is better to use shoes indoors too, particularly if you need to protect the joints and ligaments of your feet.
  • Consider the thickness of socks that you will wear with particular footwear. Will this affect the fit?

If you have particular problems with your feet or health problems that affect your feet or your footwear needs, do inform the shoe shop staff – this will help them to help you.

Characteristics of footwear to consider


  • Lightweight and thick polyurethane flexible soles to provide shock absorbance.
  • Soft leather uppers. Choose styles that do not have stitching or seams over prominent areas.
  • The lining of the shoe should be free from rough edges or
    obstructive stitching.
  • Firm material around the back of the heel to support the foot.


  • These hold the foot and shoe together. Shoes should have either lace, bar and buckle or velcro straps.

Heel area

  • For women, heel height should be under 5cm.
  • The heel counter (ie the part of the shoe that grips your heel) provides side support and stability to your heel and foot. If this area softens or breaks down, the heel area of the footwear will loose its shape and become less supportive.

Shape and style

  • Try to ensure that your footwear reflects the shape of your foot
  • Select styles that assist you in walking eg boots for uneven ground
  • Above all, ask yourself if your footwear choice is suitable for the activity you are doing.

Other points to consider

New footwear that fits well does not need ‘breaking in’. However, it is important to initially use new footwear for no more than two hours on the first occasion, after which your feet should be inspected for any signs of redness that might indicate rubbing.

Hospital services A-Z

More information

For more information about the podiatry service at Poole Hospital, click on the link below.

Podiatry [LINK]

Poole Hospital NHS Foundation Trust, Longfleet Road, Poole, Dorset BH15 2JB. Tel: 01202 665511

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