Shoe Fitting Issues

Here is an extract from an article on orthotics. It illuminates some problems caused by standardized shoe shapes and sizes. It explains why perfect fit is impossible and the resulting abrasions and contusions caused by ill-fitting shoes. This is why most of us feel so much better when we minimize our use of shoes. Granted, if shoes simply must be worn, custom orthotics can help to better match the shoe to the foot. However, due to the ongoing expense of such a process, we feel that a wise approach would be to minimize the use of such shoes in favor of bare feet. After all, the air will always be a perfect fit.

Foot pain is the most common physical complaint of mankind. The reasons are many and varied. To begin with feet are as individual as snowflakes. It's very doubtful if there is a perfectly matched pair of feet anywhere in the world. In 1982 the national Prescription Footwear Association completed the measurement of 6,800 pairs of adult men and women's feet in 23 cities. Not a single perfectly matched pair was found.

..... To think for a minute that you can walk to a shoe store and find a pair of shoes made in some distant factory by people who have never seen your feet and get a perfect fit is absolutely ludicrous. One of the nation's foremost footwear authorities, Doctor William Rossi, is author of the book Podometrics, a book dealing with foot measures as related to lasts, shoes, sizes and fit. In a June 1983 article in Leather & Shoes, Rossi wrote that "Perfect Shoe Fit" is impossible and "correct shoe" fit is improbable. He lists some 37 factors that affect fit. A perfect fit is not possible even in custom-made shoes because the foot keeps changing. It is one shape at non weight-bearing rest--called static fit--and another shape at full weight-bearing. Then it changes shapes dramatically in functional fit, which is the foot in motion--walking, running, and jumping. No shoe or shoe material can match these changes 100 percent. Lastly there is thermal fit. Under different conditions of heat, cold and humidity the foot volume changes enough to make an otherwise reasonably good fit either too tight or too loose.

Every experienced shoe person knows that every pair of shoes fitted is a compromise of some type. Most are afraid to tell this to their customer because the minute they suggest putting in a pad or making a shoe modification of some type the customer recoils and says, "There must be something wrong with this shoe because my feet are fine." But are they really? If you could see them barefoot you might see toes and or joints that have suffered great abuse from shoe pressure and friction, red swollen joints, heavy areas of calluses, and toes with painful corns. You question them and you hear, "Oh, it's been that way for years," or "I was misfit once," or a whole list of similar stories. Sometimes you will hear my right foot is slightly larger and I have to buy it too small or the left slips at the heel. It would make an interesting candid camera show to see and listen to all the strange tales of why people's feet are so mistreated.

The answer is very simple: shoes are made in standard sizes and feet are not standard at all. When shoes fail to fit properly they can cause abrasions and contusions that develop into painful corns, calluses, hammer toes and bunions. If shoes fail to support the foot's skeletal structure properly, many additional problems result. Perhaps the worst problems are high pressure areas caused by tight shoes or extreme pressure on joints. This causes ischemia that leads to necrosis of tissue, that, without relief, can develop into open ulcers and sometimes infections that lead to amputations.

For some extracts from an article by Dr. William Rossi entitled  "The Arches: Some Controversial Views", please click here.

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