(BPT) - From surgeons to chefs, people who spend long hours standing at work take steps to ensure their feet stay healthy, including wearing comfortable, supportive shoes. Yet even people who sit in offices all day can benefit from the right footwear.
'If you don't work with heavy equipment or aren't on your feet a lot, you may think the most important thing to consider when choosing work shoes is how professional they look,' says Dr. Joseph Caporusso, a podiatrist and president of the American Podiatric Medical Association (APMA). 'But even if you're just walking from meeting to meeting or from the train station to your office, ill-fitting or non-supportive shoes can cause discomfort, injury and long-term health problems. It's important to make good footwear choices, whatever your profession.'
Most American adults have experienced foot pain or a foot ailment, according to an APMA survey. Half say they have foot pain at least some of the time. In fact, more Americans experience pain and problems with their feet than with any other body part, the survey revealed. Improper or ill-fitting footwear is a leading cause of foot pain.
The APMA offers some tips for choosing dress shoes that meet both the need for a professional look and basic comfort:
* Begin your shoe-shopping process by getting professionally fitted. Did you know that your shoe size can change throughout adulthood? Factors like age, illness and pregnancy can alter your shoe size over time, so it makes sense to get fitted at least once a year. Be sure to have both feet measured and buy shoes according to the size of your larger foot. Also, get sized and buy shoes at the end of the day, when your feet are at their largest.
* Check the shoe to ensure it's supportive. Padding in the sole should be thick under the ball of the foot and conform to your foot's natural shape. Shoes should only bend at the ball, and you should not be able to easily twist the shoe .
* Choose natural materials that allow your feet to breathe. Man-made materials can contribute to sweating, rubbing and chafing.
*Look for APMA's Seal of Acceptance on certain models of footwear, which have been evaluated by podiatrists and found to be beneficial to overall foot health.
'Women may be especially at risk of footwear-related discomfort,' Caporusso says. 'A recent APMA survey found that 53 percent of women experience foot pain. High heels are a must-wear for many female professionals, but can cause discomfort and injury if precautions aren't taken.'
Women who want to wear heels can minimize their discomfort and chance for injury by following a few simple rules:
* Stick to a wedge, rather than a stiletto. The wider heel offers better support for ankles.
* Limit heel height to no more than 2 inches.
* Avoid shoes with very pointy toes. Instead, choose shoes with rounded or square toe boxes that provide plenty of room for your toes. If you can't wiggle your toes in a pair of heels, they're too tight and too pointy.
* Wear your heels for just a few hours at a time. Consider carrying a pair of flats or even athletic shoes to switch into at lunch time or for your commute home at the end of the day.
* If you experience pain in the lower back, neck or shoulder, look to your shoes. Heel height can cause changes in pelvic alignment, which can lead to pain in other areas of the body.
'Foot pain is not natural and can be a warning sign of serious problems,' Caporusso cautions. 'Choosing the right footwear for work can help professionals avoid pain and other foot problems.'
Whether you're used to wearing loafers or heels during a day at the office, if you experience foot pain, don't wait for it to go away.Visit a podiatrist who is uniquely qualified by their education, training, and experience to diagnose and treat conditions affecting the foot, ankle, and related structures of the leg. To find a podiatrist in your area, visit www.apma.org and click on 'find a podiatrist.'