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Save your knees

...wear the right shoes

By Foot health with Leana

Within recent times, it seems like the majority of persons over 50 coming into the clinic were diagnosed with arthritis or they have some kind of knee issue or another. Our poor feet take the beating over the years and usually the knees, ankles or soles start to tell a story.

Whether due to ignorance or not, wearing inappropriate shoes contributes significantly to our fate. Styles and colours in pumps, sandals, flip-flops and the recent boots craze drive you crazy. However, the focus should be on comfort and support. When this isn't the focal point, you are guaranteed to eventually experience problems. Simply put, it pays to know which footwear may lessen pain and protect your knee joints. I'm going to guide on choosing the right shoes and driving the point home via foot facts.

Foot facts

• A woman of 125 lbs (57 kg) when stepping down in a pair of heels, steps with the force of 900 lbs (408 kg). Most of us have long passed that weight, so imagine the impact.

• The average person takes approximately 8,000 to 10,000 steps a day, that's 115,000 miles (185,000 km) in a lifetime.

• About 25 per cent of all bones in the body are in the feet.

Your feet change with age, and so should your shoe choices. The foot muscles get weaker and the foot joints get creaky. Flexibility decreases and heels lose some of their fascia (fatty padding under the feet). Shoe size may even go up as the feet spread, thanks to the effects of weight and gravity. When you add problems like bunions and arthritis, wearing comfortable, well-fitting shoes becomes more important than ever.

Protect your knees

The impact of footwear on the knees can be severe. Recent research shows that flat shoes with flexible soles put less stress on the knee than thick-soled stability shoes.

This leads experts to think that shoes with a low sole that's flexible and bends with your foot could help prevent knee damage and pain. Think light shoes rather than shoes with stiff, thick soles.

Some arch supports (insoles), called lateral-wedged insoles, may provide pain relief for some people. Studies of these prescription shoe inserts have shown inconsistent results, however, more research is needed.

When pains occur, massages can help. We can do different types, depending on if it's swollen or just a lot of discomfort. Icing or applying heat is also very useful.

The great shoe hunt…

a stressful/depressing one

A good fit and comfortable feel are the most important factors when selecting shoes. Your best bet is a shoe that's shaped like your foot. Trace a few pairs of shoes on paper, then step barefoot onto the outline to see whether your foot fits within it.

Choose shoes with a flexible rubber sole for cushioning, it needs reiterating. A square or rounded toe box is best as it gives your toes room to move.

Avoid sling-backs (open-backed shoes) as they don't provide sufficient back support. And high heels? They place tremendous stress on the foot and toes and lead to posture problems. Wear low heels (two inches [five centimetres] or less) only when you must, and switch back to flats with a slight wedge as soon as you can.

Shopping smartly

Feet tend to swell during the day, so shoe-shopping is best done in the afternoon when your feet are at their largest. In most people, one foot is larger than the other, so buy the shoe size that accommodates the larger foot.

Try on both sides of the shoes; if you wear socks or stockings, carry a pair with you to try to assess your comfort level. If you wear arch supports, take them with you. Walk around in the store. Make sure the shoe fits well on the sides, front, back and top, along with ensuring you have sufficient room in the toe box area. You want shoes that feel comfortable right away, without needing to be broken in.

If you have questions or difficulty finding well-fitting shoes, visit a podiatrist/chiropodist/foot health practitioner to review your bioÿmechanics (foot dynamics). In our country, unfortunately, there are only a few stores that provide quality/appropriate footwear.

Your feet mirror your general health...cherish them.

—Leana Huntley is an English-trained foot health practitioner attached to

ALMAWI Ltd—The Holistic Clinic.

For further information, e-mail:

lhuntley@almawiclinic.com

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