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Foot problems? Try these tips to find comfortable shoes

April 11, 2016

Look for roomy toe boxes, soft inner soles, and sturdy heel counters to give you a better fit and help you stay on the go.

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Image: Thinkstock

Bunions, hammertoes, corns, and calluses all make shoe buying a chore. But the wrong shoes can impair your mobility and independence. "Pain from any of those conditions can alter your gait," says Dr. James Ioli, assistant professor of orthopedic surgery at Harvard Medical School.

Corns and calluses

Bunions and hammertoes

A bunion develops at the base of your big toe when two bones no longer connect properly, causing the base to jut out-ward. Some people are genetically vulnerable to getting bunions. However, bunions are more likely to develop in people (often women) wearing shoes that crowd the toes.

Hammertoes are deformed, bent toes that may result from poorly fitting shoes, a ligament problem, or a bunion that pushes one toe over another.

If bunions and hammertoes don't bother you, there's no need to treat them. "I have many patients who are runners with hammertoes and bunions who successfully compete without any trouble. It's all a matter of individual mechanical issues," says Dr. Ioli. If the deformities bother you, surgery to realign the bones is possible, but that is a last resort.

Shoe hunt

Other options

Even a roomy toe box may cause a little friction when you walk. That's when using moleskin pads on your toes or feet can help. These soft pads have an adhesive backing that you attach to an affected foot or toe area, or to the inside of your shoe. It protects against friction. You can find moleskin pads in drugstores. Toe separators can help relieve pain from corns be-tween the toes.

Some shoes are designed specifically to relieve pressure on bunions. You can find them in specialty shoe stores. But prepare to pay more for these kinds of shoes. They typically run $100 to $200 per pair. Are they worth it? "If they relieve pressure points and decrease pain on the bunion or hammertoes or any deformity, that's good," says Dr. Ioli, "but you can find comfortable shoes for less if you do a little detective work."

Figure 1: Finding a comfortable fit for ailing feet

When shopping for comfy shoes, look for these important features.

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