‘You can’t understand someone until you’ve walked a mile in their shoes’ (Anon), is now quite a famous quote, and it gets rolled out frequently when discussing empathy. This is a ridiculous concept if you think about it, as how would walking in someone else’s shoes help you to understand anything about another human being? Well actually, now that I say this, I realise that the entire science of forensic orthotics is precisely this – ascertaining the identity of someone based upon their distinct gait pattern. Anyway, I digress. The main point here, is that shoes are a vital component in maintaining mobility; they are however, far more than this for many people. Shoes are an enormous fashion statement, and isn’t it true that a man can be judged by his shoes, his wallet and his watch? Probably not, but you get the point. Gone are the days when most people only had a solitary pair of shoes, and now most of us have numerous pairs. If you are lucky enough to be able to wear fashion shoes, without incurring great pain or a reduction in stability, then I take off my metaphorical hat to you, as this is not the case for many. If you are not in this group however, and you find shoes are either too shallow, too narrow, too heavy, too flexible, insufficiently supportive, too high, too low, or generally just a pain in the ‘tarsals’, then read on….

There are certain conditions that necessitate bespoke footwear, but this is not the topic for this month. What I want to discuss here, is the world of non-specialist, but sort-of-specialist footwear. If you have been diagnosed with Hallux Valgus, or a ‘bunion’ to you and me, or if you have arthritic feet, or even if you are prescribed a Functional Foot Orthosis, again, an insole to you and me, then you may need shoes with greater depth or width, either to accommodate the orthotic insole, or simply your foot itself. There are of course, many more reasons that you may need wider or deeper shoes, but the outcome is just the same.

Many people, faced with this issue, head for the High Street (other streets, roads and avenues are available), and they attempt to get the best fit possible given the circumstances. This sounds perfectly reasonable, until you consider that if the best you do is to compromise, then you may be making matters worse for your feet, which may already be delicate or in need of ‘protection’ where possible. The closest I can come to any kind of sensible analogy here, and bear with me, is for you to imagine borrowing your friends reading glasses to read a menu, because you’ve forgotten yours. This may be very useful in the very short term, but if you were to use these regularly, and they weren’t your prescription, then you are going to really damage your eyes. A pair of regular shoes will be OK in the short term, but are really not a sensible idea for any prolonged period. So, if this is the case, what can you do, because ‘special’ shoes are ugly right? WRONG!!

Orthotists are constantly signposting people to appropriate footwear, and I guess this is the issue – what is appropriate? There are some fantastic brands of footwear out there that claim to be for wider feet, and some are better than others. I’m going to stick my neck out here, and name a brand, which is not really what this blog is about, but I do feel that this is important. DB Shoes is a family business, and their humble beginnings in footwear began back in 1841. They make a bold claim, that they make the ‘Perfect fit for wider feet’ – quite a claim I’m sure you’d agree; it has to be said however, that their shoes are fantastic for anyone who needs a deeper or a wider shoe, and partly this is in the construction of the shoe itself, but also in the fact that they offer a number of different width and depth sizes. They are not unique in this, but they do have a best choice around in my experience.

Now I can hear you all thinking, well this is OK, but that’s no good if they all make me look like I’m 95 years old! This is simply not the case either, and whether you’re after a casual or smart shoe or boot, whether you’re 15 or 95, then they have styles that not only look good, but that also give you the room and the stability you need, and that your Orthotist has been begging you to get!

Advertisement over, the really important message here, is that whatever footwear you buy, it needs to fit correctly, and this is sadly something we pay little attention to. People believe that they are a certain shoe size, and henceforth, they buy shoes of that size, almost regardless. Any shoe manufacturer will tell you, that their finished products can range in size, and the most important thing to do, is to have the shoes ‘fitted’ – yes fitted. This isn’t simply trying them on and walking for a couple of paces, but actually having them fitted by an expert. A good shoe shop or footwear supplier will happily do this for you. If you need any advice on footwear, then speak to your Orthotist, and I’m sure they’ll point you in the right direction.

Anyway, the message here is to make sure that you wear appropriate footwear, and if this means stepping away from the high heels or ridiculous Kangaroo skin fashion boots, then make the leap, or if this is too ambitious, then maybe a shuffle as opposed to a leap. One thing is for certain – even expensive designer shoes look ridiculous if the wearer is hobbling along in them – function NOT fashion is the key here.

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