The Best Footwear for Foot Pain

Statistics estimate the average person will walk anywhere from 100,000 to over 200,000 miles in their lifetime. These astounding figures should tell us that we owe much of our ability to move around and engage in physical activity to work performed by our humble feet. When a person wears proper supportive footwear, they can accomplish some amazing feats of physical performance. 

Conversely, a person’s feet or ankles become much more prone to injury without proper footwear. Of course, many injuries can be avoided simply by wearing the right footwear when engaging in physical activity. Look below and see what you need to know about finding the best footwear for your foot or ankle pain.

Anatomy is the Key to Relieving Foot Pain

The necessity of suitable footwear begins with describing the anatomical components of the feet and ankle areas. The toes make up the topmost portion of the foot. Toes play an essential role in maintaining good balance during movement. They also play a substantial role in supporting the weight of a person’s body as a person reaches the end of a single step and begins to take another.

The sole is the area underneath the foot that extends from the bottom of the toes to the heel. The sole plays a significant role in bearing a person’s body weight. It must also be flexible enough to handle all the twists and turn movements found in physical activity.

The arch component of the sole plays a critical role in absorbing much of the shock that occurs during activities such as walking or running through a network of tough ligaments (plantar fascia) and tendons attached to the tarsal and metatarsal bones of the foot.

The last component of the foot, the heel, contains the most prominent bone throughout the entire foot region. When a person takes a step, their heel is the first part of the foot to strike the ground, thus experiencing most of the initial impact of every step.

Last but not least is the ankle region. The ankle connects the foot to the leg; however, it also contains multiple joints that play a crucial role in allowing the foot to maneuver into various positions, including up and down and left and right.


How to Find Effective Shoes for Foot Pain

Understanding the various components of the foot and ankle region and how they all work together allows a person to understand why footwear should support the toe region (toe box), the sole, the arch and heel areas, and both ankles. Wearing footwear that does not provide the proper space and support means a person becomes more susceptible to foot issues such as heel pain, inflammation of the plantar fascia (plantar fasciitis), arch problems, or toe issues such as blisters and bunions.

Wearing suitable footwear for foot pain means wearing shoes that are neither too small nor too large. There should be a 1/2″ space between the top of the toes (whichever one is tallest) and the top of the shoe. The toe box should allow at least 1/4″ on both the inside and outside areas of the toes.

To determine whether the sole of a shoe is supportive, try twisting it back and forth as if wringing out a wet towel. The more difficult it is to perform the motion, the more sole support the shoe possesses.

It’s also essential to evaluate how the shoes fit and feel during physical activity. Walk around the store for a few minutes, jog a few steps in place if you are looking for running shoes, and do some quick starts and stops if you are looking for shoes to wear for tennis or basketball. Lastly, look in a mirror from the front, the side, and the rear, to assess if the shoes provide proper ankle alignment.

How to Relieve Foot Pain with Cawley Physical Therapy

If you’ve tried selecting footwear for foot pain without success, you may have a foot problem such as fallen arches (flat feet) or an excessive arch. People with flat feet are more susceptible to overpronation, a condition where the ankle(s) collapses inward. Those with an excessive arch often experience supination problems, in which their ankle and feet bow outwardly. This gives the impression they are almost walking on the side of their feet.

A professional physical therapist can help diagnose foot issues and correct foot problems by recommending stretching and strengthening exercises to combat weaknesses, along with providing expertise on selecting the right shoes for foot pain. If you or someone you know experiences repeated foot problems during physical activity, we can help. Don’t hesitate to contact us at 570-208-2787 or email us at to learn how to relieve foot pain.

*Those with diabetes should check first with their physician regarding proper footwear. In general, a physician with likely recommend special diabetic shoes that are solid with a wide toe box, however, it’s always a good idea to consult with the doctor primarily responsible for treating your diabetes.