7 Signs Your Shoes are Damaging Your Feet

Why your feet hurt and how to fix it

Foot pain can be caused by many different things – sometimes it can be genetic, it can be caused by an accident, or maybe, your shoes are causing you the pain.

A hurting feet

This is something that a lot of people do not consider when they start developing foot pain. In fact, a lot of people don’t realize that wearing the wrong shoe can have a negative impact on your whole body.

If you are experiencing foot pain then you might want to consider checking out the list below to see if your shoes could be at fault. Wouldn’t it be good to find out that you can easily fix your foot pain by changing to better shoes?

In this article, you will find 14 easy to follow tips that will help you to improve your foot health and hopefully make your life a little less painful.

7 Signs Your Shoes Are Damaging Your Feet

Wearing the wrong type of shoes can damage your feet. Wearing the wrong size of shoes can damage your feet. Wearing shoes that are too old can damage your feet.

But, how can you tell if your shoes are damaging your feet? Well, here are signs and 7 tips to help you prevent any of this damage from being done.

1. You Had Your Shoes For Longer Than 12 Months

Do you wear the same pair of shoes every day? Have you noticed that they have changed over the last 6 months? Well, your foot pain could be caused by wearing shoes that are too old for too long.

The sad truth of the footwear industry is that our shoes aren’t designed to last – unless you get them for certain shoemakers. Most companies want us to buy new shoes from them more than once every 5 years, so they make shoes that fall apart quickly in the hope that we buy more. This is the big problem of fast fashion.

So, it is no shock to us that after a year of wear our shoes aren’t supporting our feet in the same way they used to. The average American shoe lasts for 9-12 months of use before it needs to be replaced.

Once our shoes get to a certain age or experience a certain amount of wear (if you walk a lot in the same pair of shoes), they will start to degrade. They will not supply the same kind of ankle support, the heals will wear too thin, the insole of the shoe will start to fall apart, and the body of the shoe may even warp over time.

When you start to notice changes like this, it may be time to consider bringing in a new set of shoes.

TAKEAWAY TIP – The experts say for every 700km that you walk in your shoes, they lose integrity. After this much use, replace your shoes.

2. Your Feet Hurt During Or After A Walk

Isolate pain in the feet is normally a sign that it is your shoes that are the problem.

If you feel pain in your feet, your ankles, and your lower legs when you walk then it is not likely to be related to your shoes. In the same way, if you feel pain in your feet and your back while you are walking then it is not likely to be exclusively related to the shoes that you are wearing.

However, if you only feel pain in your feet while walking or after walking then your shoes are probably to blame.

It is also worth bearing in mind that if you always feel pain in your feet then your shoes might be making your problem worse, but they are not likely to be the source of your discomfort. If you are worried then this is something you can always discuss with your doctor.

There are certain types of pain that you should be on the lookout for if you are wearing the wrong shoes.

Firstly, if you are feeling pain in your big and/or little toes but not in any other toe then this is likely to be a shoe-related pain. Secondly, pain or tender skin around the heel is usually caused by shoes. So is pain on the balls of your feet.

TAKEAWAY TIP –  Make note of what type of pain that you are feeling, if it is exclusively in your feet then you should consider replacing your shoes.  

3. You Tend To Lose Your Toenails While You Wear Them

Your toenails falling off can be a symptom of many different things including psoriasis, a fungal infection, and an injury to the said toe.

However, all of those causes come with secondary symptoms that are easy to spot – fungal infections smell, psoriasis comes with broken skin and other autoimmune issues, and, well you know when you are injured.

But, many people lose their toenails when they have none of the above symptoms. In fact, they just notice that their toe hurts, and then a few weeks later they lose the toenail. If this situation seems familiar to you then you are probably wearing the wrong shoes.

Why do shoes make our toenails fall off?

Well, our toenails tend to fall off when we wear shoes that are too small and/or have toe caps that are too stiff. These things can put our toenails under a tremendous amount of stress over a long period of time.

It is just like dropping something on your toe and the damage causing your toenail to fall off – accept that the pressure happens over weeks rather than in a single moment. Your toenail may go black before falling off or it may fall off without warning – both of these events are a sign that your shoes could be too tight.

TAKEAWAY TIP – if your toenails fall off regularly, you need to buy yourself a set of shoes in a bigger size. Make sure you try them on before you buy them.

4. You Tend To Get Blisters, Calluses, And Corns

Getting blisters

Blisters, calluses, and corns are typically caused when you are not wearing the right type of footwear. For example, high heels are not necessarily bad for your feet, but they will cause a multitude of blisters if you wear them on a hike.

Wearing shoes that are the wrong size and are not designed for the type of activity you want to do can temporarily and permanently damage your feet.

Here is a quick guide to the types of injuries wearing the wrong shoes can cause:

Blisters – when the skin experiences too much friction or gets burnt, our body creates a blister. This is a protective layer of skin that is often filled with fluid, blood, or puss. The blister tries to keep the pressure off the skin that is being damaged.

Calluses – these usually appear on loadbearing parts of the foot. A callus is a hardened part of the skin that is usually not painful. They can be caused by the repeated wearing away of more delicate layers of skin.

Corns – these usually appear on non-loadbearing parts of the foot (like on the sides or in between toes). Corns are lumps of hard skin wrapped in inflamed skin – they can sometimes be painful. 

TAKEAWAY TIP – make sure the shoes that you put on in the morning are appropriate for the types of activities that you are going to be doing. If you are doing more than one activity that is very different, consider packing multiple types of shoes.

5. You Develop Plantar Fasciitis

Another sign that you are wearing the wrong type of shoes and that your foot pain is being caused by your shoes is shooting pains in your heels when you first start to walk.

Stabbing pains in your heels only at the start of the day or when you first start to walk could mean that you have developed plantar fasciitis. This is not exclusively caused by wearing the wrong shoes but inappropriate shoes can really aggravate the condition.

Plantar fasciitis is caused when a thick callus is formed on the bottom of your foot. If the callus gets too thick, it can start pressing into the heel bone. This is what causes the stabbing pain.

Typically, with plantar fasciitis, the pain will be the most intense at the start of a walk and will fade as the day goes on.

Some people develop this condition because they have a genetic predisposition to, while others develop it because their body weight puts extra pressure on their feet. Others get it because they are wearing the wrong type of shoe.

Switching to shoes and supportive insoles can help anyone reduce the side effects of plantar fasciitis and hopefully eventually get over it.  

TAKEAWAY TIP – If you have a job that keeps you on your feet all day then you should buy yourself a pair of supportive insoles to put inside your shoes. This will take pressure off your heels and allow them to heal.

6. You Struggle To Get Your Shoes Off Without Fully Loosening The Laces

Old broken shoes

If your toes are too tight then they can cause all sorts of problems for you. Your shoes suddenly getting too tight is also a sign that your feet are swollen. This can often be caused by wearing improper shoes.

So, if you find yourself having to fully undo your laces to take your shoes off then you should be wary.

Why do our feet start to swell when we wear shoes? Well, swelling and inflammation is a method used by our body to protect our feet when they are getting damaged.

While skin is easy for our body to replace, it likes to protect our bones and tendons. So swelling is something that you should take seriously.

If your shoes are too tight and they are putting pressure on your bones then you could experience swelling. If your shoes are not creating an adequate barrier between your feet and the floor then you could also experience swelling. You may also experience swelling if you spend a lot of time on your feet and your shoes do not support you enough.

Swelling is a sign that you may need to consider getting more ergonomic shoes that are more feet friendly. They don’t always look amazing but it is worth it to keep your feet healthy.

TAKEAWAY TIP – if your feet regularly swell up when you are wearing shoes then you should talk to a podiatrist. They will be able to help you find wider shoes with the right kind of support. These shoes can help to prevent long term damage.

7. You Often Develop Tendonitis After Running

You have over 100 different tendons in your foot. While is possible to injure a tendon even when you are wearing the right footwear, this kind of damage is most often caused by wearing the wrong shoes.

Running is one of the most important times to make sure you are wearing the right shoes. The wrong shoes can damage nearly every part of your feet, ankles, legs, and hips. This is why many sports shops offer fitting sessions for running shoes.

Tendonitis is one of the most common side effects of wearing the wrong type of shoes while running. This can occur in any or multiple of the tendons in your feet.

Symptoms of tendonitis:

  • pain in a tendon that gets worse when you move
  • difficulty moving the joint
  • feeling a grating or crackling sensation when you move the tendon
  • swelling, sometimes with heat or redness

Tendonitis is not a permanent condition but it does take between 2-3 weeks of rest to recover from. If you have fitness goals then this can be very frustrating.

You can reduce your chances of getting tendonitis by getting shoes that support your ankles, aren’t too tight, and that support your arches.

TAKEAWAY TIP – before you start running, go to your local sports shop and get professionally fitted for running shoes. This process takes around half an hour and it involves having your running patterns studied. It is well worth taking the time when you know you are drastically reducing your chances of developing tendonitis.

Shoe Mistakes That Can Damage Your Feet

Shoe Mistakes That Can Damage Your Feet

So, we have looked at how your shoes can hurt your feet and how to tell when they do. Now it is time to look at the things you can do to reduce the chances of your feet getting damaged.

You Don’t Replace Shoes That Have Worn-down Heels

If you are anything like us then you feel a little pain in your chest when you see that the heel of your shoe has worn down before the rest of your shoe is showing any sign of usage.

At this point we know we should replace the shoe but it feels wasteful when the rest of the shoe is absolutely fine. So, you may end up wearing the shoes anyway for the next few months before you start noticing that you are developing calluses on your heels and your feet hurt.

If you relate to this story then we urge you to ignore that pain in your chest and replace your shoes when the heel is worn away.

The heel is one of the most important parts of your shoe – whether it is a boot, a sneaker, or a work shoe. It is the support that helps to absorb the shock of our feet coming into contact with the ground. It also provides an important amount of support for our body weight.

The heel wears away first because it is the part of the shoe that is under the most strain.

TAKEAWAY TIP – when the heel of your shoe wears down, replace the shoe. Or if you can, have a new heel fitted.

You Don’t Replace Shoes That Have Worn-down Insoles

The second most important part of your shoe is the insole. This is another part of the shoe that a lot of people are reluctant to replace when it wears away.

The good news for most of us (especially those on a budget) is that insoles are much easier to replace than heels are. However, after a certain point of wear, you will have to replace the whole shoe and not just the insole.

If you are experiencing foot pain, most specifically heel pain, then you might want to consider fitting extra insoles into shoes. These can provide low-quality shoes with extra support and reduce the amount of pain you are in.

If you have worn through your insole and notice that you have also worn through the lining under the insole then it is time to replace the shoe. If you can see under the lining then it most likely means that the integrity of the heel has been reduced and damaged.

If both the heels and the insole are damaged then it is time to replace the whole shoe.

If the original insole of the shoe has started to fall out whenever you take the shoe off then this is a good sign that you need to get new shoes.

TAKEAWAY TIP – you can replace your shoes’ insoles twice (as long as the heel and the inner lining are still intact) before you need to replace the whole shoe. 

You Crush Your Toes In Pointy-toed Shoes

We understand that this is going to be one of the most controversial items on this list – because everyone is in agreement that pointy-toed shoes look great!

Whether you want to rock a pair of cowboy boots, a statement office shoe, or another type of shoe that tapers sharply at the toes – you will experience problems.

Point-shoes were designed by artists and not by scientists. This is why they look great but are really bad for your feet. Some people believe that looking good is worth the sacrifice, but we think the side effects of wearing pointy-toed shoes will change your mind.

Wearing pointy-toed shoes makes it more likely for you to lose your toenails (for more information on why this happens, see the section above), they can also bend your toes out of shape (they can cause you to develop conditions like “hammer toe”), and they can cause extremely painful bunions.

Bunions typically appear on big and little toes and they are often caused then our bones are pushed in the wrong direction by shoes that are too tight. Bunions are boney lumps that will appear at the base of your big and little toes.

The only way to get rid of bunions is to have them surgically removed. Wearing well-fitting shoes is the best way to relieve symptoms and prevent the condition from developing in the first place.

TAKEAWAY TIP – only wear pointy-toed shoes on special occasions.

You Try On Shoes In The Morning Instead Of Later In The Day

Do you go shopping for shoes at the beginning of the day? This is why many people struggle to get their shoes off at the end of the day.

Why is this the case?

Well, when we wake up, we have been lying down for about 8 hours. This is the point of the day when our feet are at their smallest. This is because as we stand up and move around more blood enters our feet throughout the day. As the extra blood enters our feet they start to swell slightly. The later it is in the day the bigger your feet are going to be.

You will want to use this knowledge to your advantage and make sure that you go shoe shopping at the right time of the day.

You want to avoid going shopping in the morning, as your feet will be at their smallest. So you either want to go shopping in the middle of the morning or at the end of the day.

If you notice that your feet swell up a lot during the day then you may want to consider leaving your shopping trip as late as possible. So that you can get the best fitting shoes as your feet will be at their biggest.

TAKEAWAY TIP – when you are looking for new shoes, do not go shopping at the start of the day. Instead, wait until at least lunchtime before you start trying on your new shoes. You could even go shoe shopping after work to get the most accurate fitting.

You Try Shoes On Too Quickly

Have you tried on a set of shoes in store and thought they were great before getting them home and finding a whole bunch of things that are wrong with them. Well, it is likely that you did not spend enough time trying the shoes on and checking them out before you purchased them.

We have mentioned the importance of getting your shoes in person (or trying on shoes in person before you buy them online). So, now, let’s talk about the right way to try shoes on in a store.

Taking your time is key when it comes to testing out shoes. Don’t be embarrassed to do so, the shop assistants would much rather you take your time and make the right choice rather than leaving with the wrong shoes and having to return them.

Make sure that you spend at least 15 minutes wearing the shoes and that you walk around in the shoes for at least 5 minutes. This will give you a good idea about what the ankle, heel, and arch support is like. The more time you spend wearing the shoes, the better you will understand how they fit you.

After about 10 minutes you will be able to tell whether the toes are too tight. If they are very tight you will notice instantly.

TAKEAWAY TIP – take your time when trying on new shoes. Make sure they fit around the ankle, the toes, and that they offer good heel and arch support.

You Don’t Wear Shoes With Arch Support

The third most important part of your shoes is the arch support.

This is another point that might cause some contention amongst shoe fans, as people are generally split into two camps.

One group believes that arch support is essentials for foot, back, and leg health. While the other group thinks that the only thing arch support actually does is make your shoes more comfortable.

We are in camp one, but we will also say that no matter which camp you are in, you should take arch support seriously because there is nothing wrong with having more comfortable shoes.

You should pay extra attention to arch support if you have a very high arch or if you are flat-footed.

If you are interested in arch support then the best thing you can do is get custom-made shoes. However, this is an expensive endeavor and is not an option that everyone can afford.

But, don’t panic, there is another option that can benefit everyone – over the counter arch-supporting insoles.

These are easy to get hold of and are relatively cheap. Not only will they support your arches and make your feet more comfortable, but they are also likely to increase the lifespan of your shoes by taking pressure off your heels.

TAKEAWAY TIP – talk to your podiatrist about what arch support is and what kind of support you might need based on the shape of your feet.

Summary

Woman with an injured heel

Not wearing the right sized, shaped, or type of shoes can damage your feet and leave you in more pain than you would be if you went barefoot.

You also want to make sure that you don’t wear shoes for too long. Over time shoes start to lose their structural integrity and can no longer give you the kind of support they did when you first bought them. You should never wear shoes that have been through a year of continuous use.

You should make sure that you see and try on any shoes before you buy them. If your shoes are too tight around the toes then you shouldn’t wear them.

You should also make sure that you replace your shoes when and if the heels or the insoles wear out. These are the most important part of the shoes. If you are suffering from foot pain, you may find that it is being caused by your shoes. In fact, solving one of the 7 problems listed above might get rid of the pain altogether.