Stepping Up

The Shoe Doctor offers tips on buying the right footwear.

July, 2002

Russel Pate is amazed at how much time and money people invest in their cars while neglecting their feet, which he deems a much longer-term investment. To help alleviate problems, the founder of The Shoe Doctor company manufactures customized orthotic insoles based on computer-generated, “topographical” scans of customers’ feet.


Q: What mistakes do people make in choosing a shoe?
A: Buying a shoe with too narrow a toe box or ones that are too short. Not to pick on women, but with heels and pumps, women’s feet are just not pointed like that. One of my favorite things to do is to trace a customer’s foot and put their shoe on top of it. It really hits them when they can see how the foot overlaps, and I tell them, “Yeah, that’d be a great shoe if you only had four toes.”


Q: What kind of problems can these mistakes lead to?
A: Bunions is one of the more common ones. You can also end up with an aroma, burning, numbness, black toenails. Over time, shoes whose toes are more pointed can cause the joints of the big toe and little toe to develop bunions that calcify.


Q: What suggestions do you have for shoe shoppers?
A: Measure your feet at least once a year. As you get older, your arch drops and your foot gets longer and wider. And look for rubber soles, which absorb impact, as opposed to leather, which is quite hard. I know pumps are standard business dress, but I tell women not to wear anything over 1 1/2 inches in heel height, because it places too much weight on the ball of your foot, which can lead to foot, hip and back problems.


Q: Do you have to spend a lot of money for a properly fitted shoe?
A: There are some very comfortable, economy-type shoes with wide toe boxes. Actually, some of the higher priced shoes tend to be more tapered and stylish. Quite often, fashion translates into foot fatigue.


Q: What do you think of alternatives to customized insoles, such as off-the-rack versions?
A: They can be good. I’d recommend going to an athletic shoe store or a department store, because you get much more of your money’s worth than shopping at the drugstore.

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