Laura West has been part of the Society of Shoefitters since 1989, where she has acted as secretary of affairs.
She has extensive experience of shoe fitting with lots of different people, some suffering from common foot health problems.
Laura is fully aware that ensuring the best possible fit for your feet is essential and more often than not can be helped with the correct fitting wide fitting shoes.
Here is Laura's advice on foot health issues.
Q: Would you say that there are a large number of adults who have wide feet, yet often do not know they would be better off with better fitting wider shoes?
A: Yes indeed. In fact, most
people think that they know their shoe size, but have never been
measured professionally and most don't realise that there is no
standardisation in shoe sizing, so it really depends upon the brand, the
style shape, the heel height, materials, construction and the country
of origin. All of these affect the fit of a shoe.
Q: Do you find that adults with wide feet often buy ill fitting shoes, maybe just buying a shoe size bigger, rather than a wide fitting?
A: Certainly. Then they do awful things like adding bits of paper and cotton wool to take up the extra space in the shoe, or the shoes slip at the heel and they add heel grips. Heel grips are taboo unless placed at the sides of the shoe below the ankle bone, because all they do is to push the foot further into the toe box of the shoe, cramping their toes. Orthotics should only be added by professionals who know what they are doing, and anything that restricts toes is a bad thing. However, I would say that the majority of shoe purchasers will simply cram their foot into the size they think they are, hoping that the shoes will stretch and then suffer for it. Trouble is, the suffering goes deeper than they realise and will create bigger problems later in life.
Q: Would you say that the need for wide fitting shoes is increasing?
A: Possibly, for two reasons. a). In general, people have become heavier, therefore their feet have to work harder to take the weight and b). Because footwear with very little real construction e.g. rubber clogs, flip flops, jellies, cheap trainers and synthetic versions of sheepskin boots etc. has been fashionable over the past few years, and these ineffective shoes allow feet to spread and become flaccid. It is only when a person reverts to properly constructed footwear, which holds their foot in place, that they feel pain and realise their feet have changed shape.
Q: How important are good fitting shoes for diabetes sufferers?
A: Extremely important and Diabetes U.K., the specific charity set up to advise diabetics, will always give great advice and guide people to the Society of Shoe Fitters when required. For Diabetics, the eyes and feet are the most vulnerable parts of their bodies. Anything which restricts blood flow, is too tight and rubs, (hosiery and footwear can both do this), can create ulcers which won't heal very easily and in worse case scenarios, can lead to gangrene and amputation. This is not as common nowadays as previously, because health specialists are on hand and sufferers are far more aware and careful than they were 40 years ago.
Q: How important are supportive shoes in terms of falls prevention for the elderly?
A: A supportive, well constructed shoe of quality materials is a feat of engineering. These shoes are designed to hold you in the correct position, but also flex to your natural gait. Some elderly people are prone to falls through lack of balance. Other medical problems, such as arthritis, rheumatism etc. may affect their joints and make them unsteady. Therefore, with shoes that fit nicely and feel comfortable, that do not have to be thought about once on the foot, walking becomes a more natural process. If an elderly person remains mobile, with good freedom of movement, he or she is more likely to be happy, content and feel and look healthier.