The Center for Podiatric Care and Sports Medicine

Walk a Mile in My Shoes: Helping Podiatrists Diagnose Foot Problems

Posted by on Friday, March 29th, 2013

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That old clichéd saying is a cliché for a reason. You really can’t understand a person until you’ve seen things from their perspective for a while. When you’re a podiatrist, it’s even more true… and literal. It’s difficult to diagnose foot problems in a vacuum. It’s common to interview a patient about her activities, fitness level, and level of pain, but only recently have podiatrists been taking a concerted interest in the shoes their patients wear. In science, the more data you have about a problem, the better able you are to diagnose it. Foot pathology is complex and sometimes the obvious answer is reasonably far from the truth. Shoe analysis alongside gait analysis, patient interviews, foot exams, and diagnostic tests, can provide the most complete picture. What can shoes tell a podiatrist? Lets’ find out.

The type of shoe a person wears is the very first part of the puzzle. Shoe type gives the doctor clues about the person’s lifestyle and habits. For example, if your primary shoe choice is high heels, a doctor willknow right away that your feet are under pretty constant strain and pressure and he’ll know to look for bunions, plantar fasciitis, pump bump, Achilles tendonitis, and all of the other foot disorders associated with high heel wearing. If your shoe of choice, however, is a sturdy, comfortable sneaker with a wide toe box, the doctor will have to dig a bit further to understand your injury. It’s also true that many of us wear different types of shoes on different days. We may wear heels to a fancy dinner, supportive sneakers to the gym, and sensible flats to the office. For us, the shoe is only a tiny part of the story.

Examining the sole of your running shoes can illuminate your gait and many abnormalities of weight bearing. Gait analysis is an important part of podiatric diagnostics. The way you walk has a direct impact on the health of your feet. By looking at the pattern of wear on the soles of your running shoes, your doctor can tell if you pronate or supinate (if the soles are worn on the inner edge or outer edge). In some cases he can probably also tell how your foot strikes the ground (a forefoot, midfoot, or heel strike).

A prescription for new shoes can often dramatically improve a foot condition. When your doctor knows what you put on your feet, he can make recommendations for better choices. He may recommend a different brand of running shoe for a pronator, orthotic insoles for someone with weak ankles, or supportive flats for a high heel lover. If you’re buying shoes on your own, look for the APMA seal.

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If you have any foot problems or pain, contact The Center for Podiatric Care and Sports MedicineDr. Josef J. GeldwertDr. Katherine Lai, Dr. Ryan Minara and Dr. Mariola Rivera have helped thousands of people get back on their feet. Unfortunately, we cannot give diagnoses or treatment advice online. Please make an appointment to see us if you live in the NY metropolitan area or seek out a podiatrist in your area.