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It’s hard to believe that there was once a time when humans simply walked around barefoot, no matter what the temperature or terrain was like. Nowadays, you’d struggle to make it down the local high street without passing several shoe stores, boasting a wealth of designer heels, on-trend trainers and seasonal specials.
Although your health might not be the first thing to spring to your mind as you peruse the Office sales, Poorly designed shoes, or footwear that doesn’t fit properly, can cause a number of short and long-term health problems that affect various parts of our bodies, so it’s important to be clued up on what you’re putting on your feet.
Michael Ratcliffe, Podiatrist at Carnation Footcare, says that the three main functions of shoes are to protect our feet, enable us to walk wherever we want and provide comfort when we are on our feet for long periods of time. He says:
“Correctly fitting footwear should have little or no negative impact on our health. Poorly chosen and incorrectly fitting footwear can impact negatively on our feet. Shoes with higher heels, poor grip and inappropriate or absent fastenings have been linked to impaired walking, balance and falls, while foot constriction within shoes can create parathaesia (pins and needles) or temporary numbness. If footwear is incorrect then short term problems can become long term ones with an unwillingness to pursue activities such as walking or even affect the ability to work in a chosen occupation with consequent mental, emotional and physical implications.”
Ill-fitting shoes can cause damage to your feet almost immediately. Some of the more common conditions include:
Corns are a ‘plug’ of hard, dead skin that occur over a bony prominence, like a joint. They are often caused by prolonged pressure to the specific area – usually from poorly fitting footwear.
“It usually has a punctate, discrete shape and can be very painful when pressure is applied to the site. Corns can be hard or soft (and, where they exist between the toes, damp) and can contain blood vessels and/or nerve fibres. Long standing corns can be firmly attached to deeper soft tissues, which makes them hard to completely remove.”
Shoes that are too loose can allow your foot to slide and rub, or designs that place excessive pressure on a certain area of the foot are the most likely contenders to cause corns.
Nail and fungal problems are extremely common in the UK, with an estimated 16% of all Europeans thought to be suffering from some form of infection. Ingrown toenails, caused when the sides of the nail pierce the surrounding skin, are a particular nuisance and can be painful.
Wearing shoes and socks that do not fit properly and are too tight places pressure to the sides of the toes and can push the skin into the nail plate. Additionally, cutting your toenails incorrectly (neither straight across nor in a gentle curve) and cutting down the sides of your nail can place your toe at risk of an ingrowing toenail.”
Additionally, fungal toenail infections cannot only be unsightly – causing discolouration and brittleness of the nail – but they can also affect out self-esteem and (rarely) lead to further complications by which the infection is spread.
“Trauma, either a single episode or repeated minor episodes (caused by tight footwear), can lift the nail from the nail bed giving normal skin dwelling organisms a portal of entry into the nail bed and softer underside of the nail plate where they can thrive.”
Avoiding wearing tight hosiery and footwear, which can damage the nail through repetitive trauma and create a moist environment in which the fungal spores can thrive, can help prevent fungal toenail infections.
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