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Fitness Q&A

If the Athletic Shoe Doesn't Fit Well, Don't Wear It


Question: I'm a 49-year-old female and I'm on my feet six to eight hours a day on a hard concrete floor. (I work in retail and have been doing this for the past 15 years.) A month ago I was diagnosed as having plantar faciitis (heel pain) and I'm now waiting for the custom-made orthotics that are supposed to help me. Can you tell me what kind of athletic shoes would be good for me?

Answer: Regardless of which brand you choose, there are general guidelines to follow.

* Try to get fitted for footwear at the end of the day, when your foot size is at its maximum. It isn't unusual for an individual's foot to increase half a shoe size during the course of a day.

* Allow half an inch, or the width of your index finger, between the end of your longest toe and the end of the shoe. If one foot is larger than the other, buy the larger size.

* Your new shoes should be as wide as possible across the forefoot without allowing slippage in the heel. If the shoe has variable-width lacing, experiment with the narrow and wide eyelets to achieve a custom fit.

* New athletic shoes should not require a breaking-in period. However, most shoes lose their cushioning after three to six months of regular use (four days a week) even with orthotics. So, if your shoes are no longer absorbing the pounding and jarring action of your sport or the wear and tear of being on your feet all day, then get new shoes to avoid any other injuries, such as those to your knees and ankles.

* Consider your foot type--even with orthotics. People with high-arched feet tend to require greater shock absorption than those with average feet. High-arched feet also suffer from lateral instability and are more prone to ankle sprains. Conversely, people with low-arched, or flat, feet require shoes with less cushioning but greater support and heel control.


Stephanie Oakes is the fitness correspondent for Discovery Health Channel and a health/fitness consultant. She can be reached by e-mail at

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