Hi there, Dr. Meredith Warner here!
This is a question that I am asked to answer on an almost daily basis. I am extremely biased and love The Healing Sole (because I designed it to treat foot pain and promote foot health), but I also know you can’t wear the same shoe every day. Certainly, a flip flop is not considered an appropriate work shoe for many, too.
So, I must delve into all the possible shoes out there and decide the “best” shoe for my patients, friends, and family. I am a huge fan of science and scientific evidence, so this is hard for me. Basically, everything I have been taught and that you have heard are myths. Most factors discussed by other doctors, the media, and publications that define a “healthy” shoe are not founded in reality.
A SHOE'S PURPOSE
Shoes are worn for daily protection from the environment. They are also worn for fashion reasons. In certain cases, they are also selected and worn for health purposes. This latter is particularly true for diabetic footwear. Most footwear is designed with fashion in mind, and this sadly leads to a lot of problems.
Today, up to 50% (though I believe this percentage is even higher) of people do not actually know his or her true shoe size! This fact alone leads to a significant amount of pain and problems associated with footwear.
Add this factor to ill-fitting shoes with common design features such as narrow toe box, high heels, rigid upper materials, poorly placed seams, and bad materials, and we have a recipe for disaster.
If a shoe is selected for comfort but the size is not right this will lead to issues. For instance, if a longer shoe is selected because it is more comfortable overall, the internal arch mechanism will not be in the correct position. This can lead to future alignment issues. This is assumed as there is not a lot of evidence out there examining the effects of ill-fitting shoes.
For example, it has long been thought that high heels damage the foot. Studies have demonstrated no clear cause and effect beyond the development of a callus at the ball of the foot (although quite painful). This is a minor issue and not true foot damage. In other words, there is limited data to support the statement that “high heels damage your foot.” Consider, too, that there is much stronger evidence that genetics and hereditary factors cause hallux valgus (or the inward pointing of the big toe associated with bunions) than high heels are able to.
There is very little consensus among physicians as to the true effect of designer shoes on foot health. There are a few studies that look at poorly-fitting shoes. There are a few more studies that look at things like high heels. Both groups of evidence are essentially too small to make any actual decisions. It is generally thought that if one selects a comfortable shoe, there will be less chance that the gait will be altered and less chance of foot damage. However, even this statement has never been proven.
It is clear that ill-fitting or poorly designed shoes can cause pain. It is not clear that they cause long term pathology.
Therefore, I select shoes for my patients based on the actual problem they are experiencing. For example, I love Altra running shoes for my patients with hallux valgus. I carry these in my clinic, and patients can buy them online from my website. The toe box is shaped more like a foot and uses a good mesh material that limits the pressure placed on the bunion.
Likewise, I carry Dansko clogs in my clinic, Warner Orthopedics & Wellness, and on our clinic website for those that work on their feet all day. These shoes are rigid but allow for more natural foot muscle mechanics by incorporating a small forefoot rocker sole that is helpful. We also have the old-fashioned Brannock device in-clinic, and we will actually measure feet to get a true, real size.
SO, WHAT IS THE BEST SHOE FOR ME?
Unfortunately, I cannot give you a definitive answer. There is no "best" shoe. I wish I could give you better advice!
The best takeaway I can offer you is to look for footwear with good structure and support, and make sure that they are your correct size. Custom footwear can be constructed for you at your personal podiatric clinic, or you can be custom fit in-clinic to a pair of supportive, well-fitting shoes.
Again, I may be biased – but I can say for certain that The Healing Sole is designed with your comfort and relief in mind. I purposefully constructed my design with a raised arch support, rocker bottom sole, metatarsal bar, and combination compressible and non-compressible heel. These features work synergistically to keep stress, pressure, and pain off of the feet.
If you are experiencing pain from plantar fasciitis, bunions, Morton’s neuroma, heel spurs, Achilles tendinitis, and more, my design can unlock relief for you without a doctor’s visit, injection, surgery, or medication needed.
At The Healing Sole, we’ve dubbed pain-free walking and living as a way to Live With Sole™. I’d love for you to join this lifestyle!
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Dr. Meredith Warner is the creator of The Healing Sole and Well Theory. She is a board-certified and fellowship-trained Orthopedic Surgeon and Air Force Veteran.
Dr. Warner has treated countless patients for heel pain and plantar fasciitis pain in her private practice, Warner Orthopedics and Wellness. She developed The Healing Sole so that wearers can harness the body's natural healing power and have an option for everyday relief, without the need for surgery or expensive medical intervention.