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Buying Tips

In an average lifetime your feet will walk, run, hop, skip and jump around 100,000 miles. Your feet hold you up, they turn you around and they get you from A to B, but unhealthy feet can lead to long-term damage to your joints and posture. So just like your teeth, and your heart, and all those other important bits, it's important to look after you feet - and that starts with the right shoes.

The Basics

Making sure your feet don't ever let you down begins with treating them to the right shoes; shoes that are the best possible fit, no matter what the type or style.

Good things to rememeber are:

  • Your feet tend to swell a little during the day, so bear this in mind if trying on shoes in the afternoon
  • Try on new shoes wearing socks, stockings or tights similar to those you'll be wearing with them
  • Even new shoes should feel comfortable straight away. If they feel like they need breaking in they're not the shoes for you
  • If you are unsure of your shoe size ask to be measured. And remember, that your width fitting is just as important as your shoe size

What to look for

When setting out on a shoe shopping expedition, you'll typically be spoilt for choice. But there are certain things to look out for when you're trying and buying new shoes.

The upper

The main part of the shoe covering the top of the foot. Ideally, it should be made from a natural material, e.g. leather, which will allow your skin to breathe and mould itself to fit the unique features of your foot.

The fastenings

These hold the foot in the shoe and ideally should be either laces or straps (which could be elasticated or fasten with buckles or rip-tape).

The heel

This takes a large proportion of your weight and for maximum comfort should have a broad, supportive base. For women especially, the height is often dictated by fashion, not by the needs of the foot. But for all-day wear the height should ideally be no more than 4cm.

The heel counter

This is the inside part of the shoe that grasps your heel at the sides and back, preventing it from sliding up and down while walking. It should complement the shape of your own heel. This part softens with wear, losing shape and support with time.

The lining

Found inside the shoe. This should be smooth and without seams or obtrusive stitching.

The sock

The material inside the shoe that your foot sits on. Also known as the insole, look for a soft, smooth sock from breathable material. Some socks include cushioned areas for extra comfort.

The midsole

The layer above the outsole (and underneath the sock). Look for lightweight cushioning which will help absorb the shock when you walk on hard surfaces.

The outsole

The bottom of the shoe. This should be flat, except for a gentle slope upwards under the toes, and made from a flexible, durable material.

Choosing sizes


Size is important!

You probably know your shoe size off the top of your head - unlike fashion, it's unlikely to change throughout your adult life. And even if you can't remember whether you're an 8 or an 8+, isn't close enough OK?

The answer is a very definite 'no'.

Why? Because even though your feet are fully formed by the time you're old enough to vote, badly fitting footwear at any time in your adult life can still do serious damage to your feet.

Finding the perfect fit

Your shoe size is based on both the length of your foot and the measurement around the foot at its widest part. Some people have one foot slightly longer than the other - this is perfectly normal. Many people also may not fit into a standard 'whole' size, which is why half sizes are so important.

If you are unsure of your correct size, ask for your feet to be measured. The correct width is every inch (or centimetre) as important as the right length - so ask for your width fitting.

When trying on shoes, you should check that you can move your foot normally and without restriction. make sure there's enough room to allow your toes to wriggle; there's enough depth, so the upper doesn't rub the tops of your toes; and when you walk a few steps they don't pinch or rub.

Ideally, the front part of the shoe should follow the natural shape of your toes and not be too pointed. there should be a space of about 1 1/4 cm between the end of your longest toe and the end of the shoe. This lets the foot stretch out during the walking and helps prevent damage to your toes and toenails.

Choosing styles

If you're buying shoes for a particular activity or leisure pursuit - like some serious walking or playing sport - or you need special shoes for work, there are some things you should take into account.


The working foot is rarely at rest, sometimes covering as much as 15 miles a day. If you're on your feet a lot, well-fitting, comfortable shoes with durable, fliexible, amn-made soles are best. think about your working condidtions too. Wet, cold, indoors, outdoors: they should all be taken into account when you're buying shoes for work.


Good walking shoes should leave a gap of up to 12mm between the tip of your big toe and the end of your shoe. To avoid rubbing and possible problems with corns, they should be wide enough to all ow your toes to move freely and deep enough to allow your toes to move freely and deep enough to prevent them from pressing against the upper part of the shoe.

Leather uppers are notonly hard-wearing, but will mould well to the shape of your foot - allowing feet to breathe and helping them to keep cool and reduce sweating. Lace-up fastenings are best, keeping your heel firmly in place, stopping your foot from slipping.


Whether it's walking the dog or a five mile jog, it's easy to forget the toll that exercise can take on your feet. Making sure you wear the right shoes for an activity will help enhance your performance, while reducing the risk of injuries and common complaints like corns and calluses. If you're playing a particular sport always make sure you choose the right footwear for that activity.

High heels

Most women have at least one pair of high heels in their wardrobe, but you can have too much of a good thing. Walking everyday in heels for more than six months without a break can cause the calf muscle to become permanently shortened, which in turn can adversely affect the knees, hips or back.

To avoid this, try not to wear heels for long periods, or ideally save them for special occasions. For everyday wear stick to heels that are no more than 4cm high or alternate the height of heels you wear from day to day.

Calf stretches can also help by keeping your feet supple. Stand facing a wall with your feet hip-width apart and slightly bent at the knee. Take one step forwards, and using your arms to lean against the wall, keep your leg in front bent and the leg behind straight. Both feet should be flat on the ground. Lean in towards the wall. As you do, you should feel your muscles stretching in your calf and heel. Hold and slowly return to a standing position. Do this five times with each leg.