With Christmas just around the corner and shopping frenzies at their yearly peak, it’s not surprising that we find ourselves buying for quantity rather than quality. Naturally, we always try to pick out the true bargains in a world where prices appear to continuously rise. Sometimes though, it is worth it to reach a little deeper into your pocket. Such is the case with shoes, a product with endless demand so long as humans walk the earth, and with high expense for the majority of the year. Now, when costs are lowest, people are buying up the frugal footwear with little forethought beyond cost. The truth about good shoes is that they do more than keep your feet dry and stylish – they should offer key arch support to avoid foot, leg, and lower back injuries. Here’s why some shoes don’t make the cut, and how you can get yours up to snuff.
Unforeseen Costs of Bargain Footwear
While bargain footwear may have its financial perks, there are some costly afflictions that can come from a negligence to your feet. I spoke with Tyler Long, an employee of the Emmaus Run-Inn, a specialized shoe dealer for runners. “If you’re not in the proper type of shoe, we can have a lot of issues such as shin splints, plantar fasciitis, heel spurs,” he tells me.
“You’re really susceptible to injuries if you’re not fitted properly.” This is not just an issue for runners, either. “If you’re standing for long periods of time, if you’re getting up and down, you’re putting a lot of stress and strain on key muscle groups,” Long says. “People who are on their feet for several hours of their job like nurses, doctors, or hairdressers, they need that proper support and that proper cushioning.”
The most common injury seen from lack of support is plantar fasciitis, Long tells me. It effects the plantar fascia, a band-like ligament that runs from your heel cord to the ball of your foot. Long defined the condition as, “having too much stress and strain on that muscle group. It becomes fatigued, and you get a lot of pain in your heel.”
Good Shoes Gotta Have Sole
So we all need support. But what makes the cheaper shoes so much worse?
The answer lies in the sole of the shoe, the part that actually touches the ground. In more supportive shoes, you can see the sole arch up to brace your middle foot. Shoes that are not designed to be supportive, even name-brand designer shoes, often lack this feature. “There’s not a whole lot of cushioning or support [in popular shoes],” Tyler said. “They’re made from a flat sole.”
To get a pair of middle-of-the-road supportive sneakers can cost anywhere from $80-$100. If this price tag scares you, or if you just don’t like the look of running shoes, there is an alternative – aftermarket insoles. An insole is the piece of cushion-y padding at the bottom of the shoe. By replacing the substandard sole of a different shoe with one designed to be supportive, you can get the necessary performance without breaking the bank, as well as keeping the exterior of the shoe the same.
“The cheapest part of the shoe is the insole – it only costs about five cents,” Long tells me. “Putting a [supportive] insole in an off-the-box shoe definitely gives you more arch support, it gives you more control, and it also gives you a little bit more cushion.” Aftermarket insoles run anywhere from $20-$50, and assuming your pair cost about $50, you can get a supportive, stylish shoe for about $80.
Foot support, though often overshadowed, is really an important factor to consider when buying good shoes. Frequently worn footwear especially should be as supportive as possible, or you could be in for some undue pain and even medical bills. The best place to find this kind of shoe are smaller businesses. Try to shop at your local dealers, as they are more likely to offer better support. Your feet and your wallet will thank you later.