According to the American Orthopaedic Foot & Ankle Society, More than 43.1 million Americans–one in every six persons–have trouble with their feet, made worse by improperly fitting shoes.  Shoes that do not fit can contribute to foot problems, such as bunions, corns, calluses, hammertoes and other disabling foot disorders.  Not only do improper shoes harm your feet—knee problems can also result from wearing such shoes.

We’re all susceptible to foot and ankle injuries, but we can reduce our risk by wearing properly fitting shoes that conform to the natural shape of our feet.  For many people, however, finding a shoe that fits properly can be a frustrating and time- consuming process and since many people have abnormalities of their feet, the process of finding a proper fitting shoe can be difficult.

Following are few simple guidelines that can make the process less frustrating.

When to shop for shoes:

Due to foot swelling as a result of the day’s activity, your feet will naturally swell and be larger at the end of the day.  No one wants to buy a shoe that’s larger than necessary, but it is best to try on shoes towards the end of the day when your feet are more closely the size they’ll be after you’ve been walking for a while.

Sizing for Proper Fit:

Shoe size can change over time, so always have your feet measured before buying shoes. Most of us have one foot that is larger than the other, so fit your shoe to your larger foot. If necessary you can buy an insole to fill space for a better fit of the smaller foot. Wear the kind of socks that you will wear with the shoe you’re buying. Never select shoes by the size marked inside the shoe but by how the shoe fits your foot. There should be about 3/8-1/2 inch between the front of your big toe and the end of the shoe – which is about a thumb’s width. The heel should fit relatively tightly and not slip out when you walk. The upper part of the shoe — which goes over the top of your foot — should be snug and secure, and not too tight anywhere, making sure the ball of your foot fits comfortably into the widest part of the shoe. Shoes should bend at the same place where your foot bends.

Don’t believe in “Breaking In:

If your new shoes fit properly, they shouldn’t require a   “breaking in” period and should be comfortable from the minute you put them on.   Running and walking shoes should be replaced every 300 to 500 miles according to Runners World and the Walkers Site. Replace your shoes when you can tell the difference between your old pair and a new pair. Do not go by their appearance. The inner support can be much worn while they still look acceptable on the outside.

Test the shoe:

Twist the shoe – it should be flexible, not rigid.  Bend the shoes – the shoe should flex at the ball of the foot and not the middle of the foot; Place the shoe on a flat surface- when you push down the toe, the heel should rise off the surface and the heel should not be much higher than the sole at the front; Walk the shoe – wear for some distance in the store because any pain is only going to be worse on longer walks.