Care about the future of your feet? You might want to consider your shoe choices carefully, new research shows.
A study reported by Reuters Health says that older women who said they usually wore athletic shoes or sneakers in the past were 67 percent less likely to have pain in the back of their feet than women who used other types of footwear.
“Obviously women aren’t going to give up their favorite high heels, but I think it’s important to pay attention to the shoes that you’re buying and make sure they fit,” Alyssa B. Dufour, a graduate student at the Institute for Aging Research Hebrew SeniorLife in Boston and one of the researchers on the study, told Reuters Health.
Foot pain is extremely common among older people, and can be disabling, Dufour and her colleagues note in their study in Arthritis & Rheumatism. Women are more likely than men to have pain in their feet, they add, and their choice of footwear could be a factor.
Dufour and her team interviewed 3,378 men and women participating in the Framingham Study, a long-term investigation of heart health. Their average age was 66.
One in every four study participants–19 percent of men and 29 percent of the women–said they had foot pain on most days.
The researchers asked people what type of shoe they wore most commonly during five age categories, beginning in their 20s. They classified shoes into “good” (sneakers, athletic shoes), “average” (for example hard-soled leather shoes or rubber-soled shoes) and “poor” (heels or pumps, sandals, or slippers).
For men–only 2 percent of whom reported wearing “poor” shoes–there was no relationship between footwear and foot pain. But for women, wearing “good shoes” reduced the likelihood of having pain in the heel, ankle and lower Achilles tendon–known collectively as the “hindfoot” –- by two-thirds.
For women, Dufour said, the findings show that footwear choices throughout life “have long-term effects you wouldn’t even think about.”
And for times when high heels are in order, she added, women can prevent some of the ill effect of wearing them by stretching the back of their heels and calves to “give your foot the motion that you’re losing when you push your foot into the high heel position.”
High heel wearers can also try gel inserts or insoles, Dufour added. While shoes costing $300 to $400 provide better support than less expensive versions, she said, they are obviously not an option for most women.