Study: How Dress Shoes Can Harm Your Feet
And why runners should care.
We runners think a lot about running shoes. Neutral or stability. More cushioning or less. Maybe a minimalist model. What’s on your feet matters when you run, but a new studyreminds us that our everyday footwear also affects our feet, and therefore, our running.
The study, published in the Journal of Foot and Ankle Research, examined the effects of different shaped toe boxes on women’s feet. Twenty-seven women with no known foot problems walked in shoes with three different toe-box styles: round, square and pointed. Sensors collected data on the pressure placed on the toes and feet in each shoe type.
The results showed that each shoe put pressure on the forefoot, but in different places. Round-toed shoes exerted the least amount of pressure on the inside of the forefoot, while pointed shoes applied the least pressure to the outside of the forefoot (near the pinky toe).
The results clearly indicate the shape of the toe box has significant impact on pressures on the foot, the authors write, adding that “shoe design needs to advance to encompass an accepted toe box for fashion as well as foot health.”
The study did not address potential postural changes or pain in the feet, ankles, knees or hips resulting from shoe pressure points, but these are precisely the concerns podiatrists and other experts have regarding runners.
The muscular or postural problems you have sitting, standing, or walking are problems that may manifest during running, says Jay Dicharry, M.P.T., the director of the REP biomechanics lab at Rebound Physical Therapy in Bend, Oregon, and author of Anatomy for Runners.
“Often, something we think is a running problem is not a running issue, but a body issue,” he says.
Female runners should consider the health effects that wearing shoes with a 75 millimeter (2.9 inches) heel and an overly tight toe box for eight hours can have on their feet, knees and lower back, says Kevin Kirby, a sports podiatrist and marathoner. Those effects can influence your running form and mechanics.
Men, lest you think you’re off the hook, a different study showed that the walking mechanics of women who wore heels 40 hours per week were worse than those who wore them for 10 hours a week. But the heel height in the study was only 5 millimeters, a not uncommon height in men's footwear.