The footwear you choose to wear can help manage your foot and ankle problems. There is not a one-size-fits-all approach to footwear. Although you should consider shoes appropriate for your foot shape, foot pain, body weight and the task you’re using them for.

Here is some practical information about features to look for in your footwear to help treat your problem.

What is a good shoe?

  • The shoe should be the correct length, width, and depth for your foot. The front of the shoe should be round and deep to give the toes room to move.
  • There should be 1 cm between the end of your longest toe and the end of your shoe.
  • A soft-stretch upper can be more forgiving for wider feet or prominent painful joints. Seams and stiff materials can often compress painful parts of the foot.
  • The shoe needs to hold your foot firmly in place with an adjustable fastening, i.e. laces.
  • The back of the shoe needs to be firm and fit snugly around the back of the heel. This helps maintain and stabilise the heel as the shoe contacts the ground.
  • Ideally, the shoe will have a thick, lightweight sole of a non-slip material. A curved front rocker can help forefoot symptoms to allow recovery.
  • A removable insole is ideal if you need to use foot orthotics.

What is a bad shoe?

  • If you don’t have foot pain, you have more choices in your shoes.
  • Slip-on shoes, tighter toe boxes, and stiffer materials can compress the toes/foot, which can cause foot pain.
  • A high or narrow heel will not dissipate the pressure either, which may not allow foot recovery.
  • A thin, stiff sole will not cushion your foot comfortably. Whilst a too soft and flexible sole will offer no support.

Shoe Features

Insole – A removable insole liner will allow extra depth for an insole/orthotics.

Fastening – Laces might need to be loosed at pressure pain points. Slip on shoes can be tighter in places which isn’t helpful if your foot hurts.

Upper and linings – A soft upper can be useful when managing foot pain- stretch materials can help reduce pressure on painful joints or hot spots.

Heel counter – This provides support around the heel of the shoe to stabilise the foot. Often a stable heel counter can be useful with painful feet. A shallow heel counter is unlikely to have the depth for a foot insole.

Toe Box – This should be wide enough not to squash toes and deep enough to allow your toes to wriggle in the shoe. Extra depth can accommodate a hammer toe or an arthritic big toe joint.

Heel – The heel of the shoe should be broad and not too high. A hard material will be less forgiving if your heel is painful.

Forefoot Rocker Sole – The front curve can aid walking especially if have forefoot pain such as a stiff big toe joint or painful ball of the foot.

Width – Appropriate width is important to avoid compression of a bunion or arthritic big toe joint.