Braving pain for the perfect shoe

Some women love their shoes so much it hurts.

That is the conclusion of a new study that looks at the link between shoe choices and chronic foot pain.

It was based on foot exams of 3,378 men and women from Framingham, Massachusetts, who were questioned about the type of shoes they wore in the past as well as in the present. Their average age was 66.

The researchers found that smart shoe choices paid off in the long term: women who had mainly worn supportive footwear like sneakers or athletic shoes in their younger years cut their risk of common foot pain later in life by more than half, compared with women who had worn shoes that gave average support, like hard-soled or rubber-soled ones.

But both of those groups were in a minority. More than 60 percent of women said that in the past they generally wore high heels, pumps, sandals and slippers, all of which researchers rated as higher risk.

Women who wore heels, sandals and slippers were at greatest risk of the most common pain linked to poor choices in shoes, the study found: pain in the hind foot and around the ankle and the Achilles’ tendon.

The study, sponsored by the Institute for Aging Research of Hebrew SeniorLife in Boston, is being published in the October issue of the journal Arthritis & Rheumatism.

‘I think women need to really pay attention to how a shoe fits, and realise that what you’re buying could have potential effects on your feet for the rest of your life,’ said the paper’s lead author, Alyssa B. Dufour, a doctoral student in biostatistics at Boston University. ‘It’s important to pay attention to size and width, and not just buy it because it’s cute.’

When it comes to shoes, men make much better choices, the study found; fewer than 2 per cent wore bad shoes.