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Do Comfort Shoes Exist?
By Talya Wolfson 

Walker

People from all walks of life are adopting the “comfort first” strategy when it comes to footwear. Physicians are replacing their white sneakers with vibrant colored Crocs and professional women are turning in their heels for equally costly, but significantly less painful, flats and the increasingly popular Fitflops. But for people with neuropathy, finding comfortable shoes may be a bigger challenge. 

Peripheral neuropathy can result in changes in the form and function of the foot: decreased function of the sensory nerves can cause loss of protective sensation resulting in your being unaware of external damage; abnormal function of the autonomic nerves can cause your skin to become warm and dry resulting in increased sensitivity to the slightest pressure and friction and excessive callus formation; limited joint mobility can cause stiffness of the foot; and deformities may also occur. All of these foot changes or abnormalities require a better understanding of strategies for finding safe and supportive footwear over the long term.

  - Find a good fit—
When it comes to footwear, getting a good fit equals comfort. Take the time to walk around, and factor in insoles, stockings and/or socks when trying shoes. Wear shoes that accommodate for swelling, are seamless and provide support.

   - Know your feet—The foot is made up of 26 bones, 33 joints, and over 100 muscles, tendons, and ligaments. Spend time observing your feet and ask your doctor to check your feet as well to determine if you have high arches, wide feet or other structural changes that may factor into the type of shoes you wear and the adaptive footwear you  might need. 

  - Check your feet and your shoes often—Sometimes exposed seams, bits of rubber or leather that rub against the back of your heel, or even debris can hurt your feet; however, you may not feel the discomfort or pain because of your neuropathy. Consequently it’s important that you inspect your feet daily for any breaks in skin and injuries and look at your shoes (daily as well) for anything that may cause injury. In addition, signs of wear and tear on your shoes, especially when you notice the same pattern in more than one pair of shoes (both on the inner and outer aspects of the shoes) may be a sign of foot problems.

  - Listen to your feet—Avoid buying and wearing shoes that cause discomfort and pain. Talk to your doctor about any foot discomfort and pain you may experience. Ask your doctor for help if you continue having trouble finding comfortable and supportive footwear. Assess your gait—Work with your physical therapist or occupational therapist to assess the way you walk and run, and adopt techniques that do not compromise your feet.

  - Learn about customized footwear—Sometimes your doctor may recommend that you work with a podiatrist and/or a pedorthist to determine if you need adaptive/customized footwear. 

Many people may also find themselves going through—physically and financially—many pairs of shoes in search of the “right” pair. While some people find themselves in a cycle of buying shoes hoping they’ll break in the shoes only to find no comfort and then investing in another pair, others wear out their shoes faster than usual. Peter Donato, a member of the Manhattan neuropathy support group, notes, “I finally went to a board-certified pedorthist who used advanced computer technology to scan my feet to create an orthotic that met my specific needs. Now, I walk right, I am almost pain free, and my shoes are lasting much longer.”

Listen to what your feet are telling you, just like you would listen to the rest of your body. If your feet are “screaming pain” when you are wearing and/or walking about in your shoes, don’t ignore them. Carol Holmes, another neuropathy patient shares, “I had tried many things to alleviate the pain in my feet. Then I discovered Masai Barefoot Technology walking shoes; they took the pressure off my toes and the balls of my feet. I may never wear pretty shoes again, but, I am grateful that I can still walk, even if I have to wear black walking shoes to church these days.”

Talya Wolfson is a volunteer at The Neuropathy Association. She is a second-year Barnard student working towards a degree in psychology.

 

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