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Personal Health : If a Shoe Doesn’t Fit, Don’t Wear It


It’s a question a lot of women ask themselves: who has more problems: women with big feet or women with little feet? -According to a USC study, the Size 8s or larger have it.

They are more likely to suffer foot pain, bunions and other problems, says Dr. Carol Frey, Director of Orthopedic Foot and Ankle surgery at the West Coast Center for Orthopedic Surgery and Sports Medicine in Manhattan Beach. Frey surveyed 255 women, ages 20 to 60, from Los Angeles, New York and Atlanta and reported the findings at a recent orthopedic meeting in regards to the issue big feet-small feet.

Eighty percent of the women with feet Size 8 or larger reported foot pain and 75% of them had deformities such as bunions, Frey found. Foot pain and deformities increased even more in women whose shoe sizes are 10 or above–84% of this group had foot pain; 89% had bunions or other problems. Big feet or small feet is definitely a topic that needs to be discussed more.

Overall, 73% of the women surveyed had pain and 69% had deformities.

The problem, Frey suspects, lies in poor shoe fit for women with larger feet. Many manufacturers use a process called scaling or grading, increasing all internal shoe dimensions as the size increases. That concept works, Frey says, but only to a point. In her study, she found that as the length of the foot increased, the width of the forefoot also increased. But the heel width did not increase significantly, especially above Size 7. So, big feet or little feet creates room for more discourse.

“It may be that this group of women has a more difficult time with shoe fit than smaller women,” Frey speculates, partially explaining the higher incidence of pain and deformities for women with big feet.

Frey’s study results don’t surprise Suzanne Levine, a New York podiatrist who counts among her patients many women with Size 9 and larger feet.

“Most women (with larger feet) complain of their heels coming out of their shoes,” Levine says. Some compensate by putting padding at the back of the heel, she says, but it’s not ideal. Often, it can cause blistering, says Levine, a consulting spokesperson for the American Podiatric Medical Assn. and author of “My Feet Are Killing Me.” Big feet or small feet seems to be a topic where women with smaller feet come out on top, right?

John Robinson was director of research for Nike Inc. He says he has looked at thousands of feet and has not found that women with larger feet have more foot problems. The findings, he says, “might not hold true in the general population.”

Here are shoe-shopping tips that can maximize comfort regardless of shoe size, Frey says.

* Shop for shoes at the end of the day, when feet are largest.

* Get both feet measured regularly before buying shoes. Foot size can change with age and one foot might be larger than the other.

* Check to be sure the ball of your foot fits snugly into the widest part of the shoe.

* If shoes are too tight, don’t fall for the old “They’ll stretch out” line from the salesperson.

* Walk around in the shoes before buying.

* Pay special attention to the way the shoes fit around the heel. There should be minimal slippage.

If you find your heel falling out of the shoe, Levine adds, you might want to try orthotics, specially designed shoe inserts.

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