Editorial note: This is the third in a three-part series in which human and equine chiropractor Patricia Bona explores the significance of proper shoe fit and how to achieve it.

Part 1: Footcare Fit for a Farrier
Part 2: A Sound Farrier Needs Proper Fitting Shoes

Do you have a favorite pair of shoes? What is it about those shoes that you like? Is it the fit or is it the style that makes you prefer this option over others in your closet? More than likely it comes down to the fit.

Just as in the case of horses’ hooves, conformation of feet can vary greatly in humans. Some people have long toes, others have short toes; some feet are narrow and some are wide. Recognizing conformation is critical when you select shoes or boots. Just as you would no sooner put an aluminum racing plate on a plow horse, the form of your shoe must fit the function of your foot and intended activity.

Farrier Takeaways

  • Approach your own footgear as you would a horse. Decide whether the shape and the balance of the shoe is appropriate for your foot and the work you do.
  • When you find a pair of shoes you like, buy multiple pairs so you can have a backup ready if needed.
  • Keep your drawer full of quality socks to enhance your comfort and your footwear.

In previous articles in this series, I explained how wearing ill-fitted shoes can be detrimental to your feet, knees, hips, spine, overall health and career longevity. In this article, I offer some information to consider the next time you shop for shoes.

1. Shop offline if you can. A brick-and-mortar option is ideal when shopping for shoes because it allows you to evaluate your selection for fit, comfort and functionality. Stores with a hunting or outdoor focus are a great place to start. If you order shoes online, you lose the benefit of in-person evaluation. Make sure you know the return and exchange policy for shoes that are bought online because the likelihood is high that they will not properly fit.

2. Double up. After you find footgear that fits, consider buying two pairs of the same shoe or in different styles. This way you’ll have a backup in the event one pair becomes wet and needs to dry out and you will not have to scramble.

3. Socks are important. When trying on new shoes or boots, be sure to wear the socks that you will wear in them so you can fit them correctly. Rethink your choice in socks as well. Do you need or want a bit of cushion with a thicker sock, or just more cushion on the bottom? Do you need a wicking sock for hot weather or sweaty feet? Keeping your drawer full of quality socks is a good investment. It never hurts to have an extra pair with you on the road, too. Compression socks are an option often chosen by athletes to support their fitness. I wear compression socks when I work in a barn with concrete floors. If I don’t, by mid-day my legs feel heavy and it affects my energy. If you choose to try mild compression socks, be sure that they do not restrict your toes. By mid-day, my socks will slide up my foot and become tight on my toes and need adjusting.

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Remove the inner sole from your shoe and stand on it to measure the length and width of the shoe. If your foot does not fit on the inner sole properly, it will not be any better when it is in the shoe.

4. Fit yourself like you would a horse. As a farrier, you can examine any horseshoe and decide whether the shape and the balance are appropriate for the horse. Take the same approach with your own shoes. Is it balanced medial to lateral? Look from the side to see whether it offers a bit of a clearance for the heel strike. Does it provide a nice breakover for your toe-off? Evaluate whether the toe box is high enough to allow your toes to extend and flex without abrasion restriction. Look at the shoe from the bottom. Is it wide from front to back or narrow under the arch? Give them a bit of a flex and twist to evaluate stability. Remember, you fit for the form of your foot and the activity. I personally love a composite toe; steel is too heavy and too cold. Remember that you want to have a thumb’s width at the end of your toe inside your shoe so your foot can slide forward some and not be restricted or irritate the toe or toenail (Figure 1).

5. Consider the sole. Remove the inner sole and stand on it to measure the length and width of the shoe by placing your foot on top. If your foot does not fit on the inner sole properly it will not be any better when it is in the shoe (Figure 2). If you wear orthotics, it is important to try the shoe on with the orthotic for fit. You may need to take out the manufacturers inner sole to properly fit yours.

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A thumb’s width of space at the end of your toe inside your shoe will enable your foot to slide forward some and not be restricted or irritate the toe or toenail.

6. Lace smarter, not tighter. How you lace up your shoes can make you or break you. Tight shoe laces will mechanically and neurologically shut down your extensor tendons across the top of your arch and compress the bones of your arch. You can even cause a tenosynovitis, irritated/inflamed tendon sheath. Lace your shoes so that they feel a little loose; your heel should be able to lift up off of the inner sole and you should be able to grab with your toes and not feel the top of your arch being restricted by a shoe. Do not use laces to support a weakness of your ankle or foot; there are plenty of exercises for that.

I hope that this information will inspire you to reevaluate your shoe selection to improve your overall health, help restore your foot and lower leg biomechanics and bring a different sense of comfort to your day’s work and play. Optimizing your posture from the ground up is key to thriving and not just surviving.


Learn more about foot health by:

  • Downloading Dr. Patricia Bona’s shoe shopping checklist and reading the other articles in this series.
  • Watching Andreo Spina Intrinsic Foot Exercises for weak and atrophied feet, fallen arches and knee issues.

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