How to choose fashionable comfort footwear

After writing the emotions blog I thought I’d tackle something light. Less complex. Let’s look at footwear, I thought.  I’ll share my personal experience of working with foot and postural alignment issues. Easy! I'll just write about a few brands that have worked for me over the years;  which, of course, would have been the easier option. However, the more I journeyed into this subject, the more complex and controversial it became.  I thought it might be helpful to put some of this interesting stuff out there for you decide what you want.

To start with, it's probably worth reminding you that your feet - like the rest of your body - changes with age and, particularly after 40, the changes can be significant. Women especially, after years of wearing damaging court shoes, can develop bunions, hammer toes and other painful foot conditions. Feet can also vary in size and it’s quite common for one foot to be slightly larger than the other. This is also a time in one’s life when degenerative changes of the back, hips and knees may occur, which can cause postural alignment problems.  -  further complicating things. All of a sudden, for some (and it certainly was the case for me)  footwear can become a nightmare!

However, fear not! All is not lost and you should be able to find something suitable. This brings me to the subject of ergonomic footwear. Foot wear, and particularly footwear that purports to be good for posture and health, is a massive subject. In the last few years ergonomic footwear has really taken off and has gained huge popularity. Most of you will have heard of MBTs and Earth shoes; which have celebrity endorsement. Also, more recently the Fitflop range has started to flood the high street, along with other brands like  Sketchers,  that claim to give you a work out when walking. (More about this in a moment.) The basic idea is centered around the creation of an ergonomic foot bed with negative heel technology. The theory goes that negative heel technology is designed to keep the heel slightly lower than the rest of the foot to promote proper alignment of the spine. Unlike traditional footwear, which elevates the heel and shifts a person’s center of balance forward as they walk, negative heel shoes work with the foot’s natural motion, with the heel striking the ground first and bearing the most weight. The shoes are also designed to be wider at the front and narrower at the heel to support the foot comfortably and avoid crowding the toes.

Developed by Danish yoga instructor Ann Kalso in the 1950s, the theory claims that the shoes mimic the traditional Tadasana, or mountain pose. By taking the stress off back, hips and knees the emphasis is on the leg muscles, where it belongs. The claim is that when walking in negative heel shoes the whole body has a workout, similar to walking up a slight incline. The calf muscles are stretched, extra calories are burned and parts of the body, not usually involved in the walking process, are engaged and exercised. Even standing still places one’s body in proper yogic alignment; a bonus for people looking for simple ways to incorporate more exercise into their daily routines.

So that’s the science. However, not everyone buys into this and ergonomic foot wear has it’s critics. Some experts in the field of orthopaedics also question the ergonomic/health  benefits. Some even  argue that, for certain individuals,  wearing this type of foot wear can exacerbate lower limb joint problems. Also, specifically with Earth shoes, those with flat feet find the arch support too severe, which makes for uncomfortable wearing – kind of defeating the object of the exercise. That said there is a lot of anecdotal evidence out there to support that this type of foot wear can be great to wear. So, as with so much else in life, it's down to what works for you. 

From an aesthetics point of view the main draw back about most ergonomic footwear, however, is that they look bulky and cumbersome and because of this they’re probably not suitable for wearing with business dress. Also,   for the styles with an exaggerated rocker bed, the wearer can feel unstable. (And you probably wouldn't want to go running for a bus wearing this type of footwear.)  The other main draw back though is the  cost. Ergonomic footwear comes with a hefty price tag. So be warned. It might be worth shopping around for bargains on line and, if you’re hunting for boots, it’s a good idea to buy out of season when the sales are on.

So, for the times when we can not go barefoot in the sand and particularly when we need professional looking footwear at work, here is a useful guide.

List Of Shoe Brands  Recommended by
Beacon Euroflex
Daniel Green
Easy Spirit
Fly Flot
New Balance
Old Friend
PG Lite
PW Minor
Spring Boost
Spring Step

Other comfort ranges include – FitFlop, Duo, Camper, Hotter

Fitflop – produce a range of footwear that utilises the ergonomic foot bed principle that seems not as harsh as the Earth range. Available in quality shoe shops on the high street but lots of on line providers. Most of you are aware of the toe-poke and other sandals that have come out every summer in the last few years. However, they also do a range of boots that, to my mind, provide extreme comfort.  Also, for the warmer seasons, they have started to do a line of shoes, which look a little clunky  but are suitable for the office.  The boots especially are pricey. However, for me it’s worth every penny. That said it’s well worth shopping around on line as prices can vary. If you are a nurse and are a member of the RCN visit Wardwalkers, where you should find  a 20% discount for nurses. Full details can be found on the RCN website.

Duo – have shops in London and Edinbrough but they also have a great on line presence. If you don’t have bunions their pumps and flatties are lovely.  They also do a fabulous comfort range of boots that are suitable for the office and can be worn all day. If you have a problem with calf sizing then this label may be good for you as they produce boots in different calf sizes. Pricey but worth it as the boots last for ages.

Camper – the Spanish comfort range of boots, shoes and sandals that, in the UK, is available in some quality shoe shops but  is mostly only available on line. Pricey but the shoes I’ve worn are suitable for the office and can be worn all day.

Hotter – have recently started appearing on the high street in larger towns and cities, which is just as well as sizing – as with the Ecco  range – can be an issue in some of the styles. That said many swear by them. Styling, which used to be rather old fashioned, has come on in leaps and bounds and  is  increasingly being aimed at the younger age range. Maybe not as stylish as Camper and Duo. However, if you can get the size right, comfort is good. A good range of men's styles also available.

Here's to happy feet!