Shoe Therapy

For conditions like diabetes and plantar facilitis, or just plain orthopedic comfort, therapeutic shoes can offer your feet much needed relief.

If you have any foot problems, these two articles are informational, not intended as diagnostic or presenting any cures. If you do have any foot pain, aches or other foot problems you should consult your doctor. After a proper diagnosis you can be sure you are buying the right shoes for you.

Choosing the right shoes, as we said in part 1 of this article, Choosing The Right Work Shoes, is important for everyone’s foot health. It’s also crucial for your overall bodily health. But what if your shoe needs are complicated by a medical condition? If careful choice of shoes is not enough to help with your foot problems, there are also specialist therapeutic shoes. These go further to soothe the symptoms of a variety of common foot health conditions.

From arthritis, diabetes and plantar facilitis (inflammation or injury of the tissue of the sole) to more general mechanical problems like back pain, adapted shoes can help and even heal. In this second part we look at the ways that specially adapted shoes can assist with existing foot problems or even prevent them from developing.


In the United States we currently have an estimated 25 million diabetes sufferers, consisting of 18.8 million diagnosed cases and an estimated 7 million undiagnosed. Diabetes disrupts the circulatory system affecting the extremities; this includes the eyes, the limbs and of course the feet. Problems with circulation are made much worse if you have ill fitting or unsupportive shoes. A tight shoe will compress the foot. An unsupportive shoe will bend the foot in uncomfortable directions.

The enlarged toe box at the front of diabetic shoes give the toes room to move, but the rest of the shoe fits normally. This is much better for you than buying bigger shoes than your normal size. The steel shank underneath the shoe stiffens the area between the heel and the arch making it impossible to bend in an uncomfortable direction. The insole can be exchanged for a doctor prescribed orthotic appliance (shaped supportive insert), distributing the weight and supporting the foot for better blood flow.

Plantar Facilitis

Over two million Americans suffer from plantar facilitis every year. The plantar fascia is a fibrous, tendon-like plane that runs the length of the bottom of the foot. With excessive activity the plantar fascia can become irritated, inflamed and even in extreme cases tear. Shoe selection for sufferers is very important and old and worn shoes can cause the injury.

The worst are stiff-soled shoes that stretch the sole or worn shoes that allow the foot to “pronate” or slant inwards pressing the arch to the floor. Specialist shoes that guard against pronation by supporting the arch protect against damage. They also help support an already damaged sole.


Arthritis is not a single disease, but a patient may suffer from one or more of over 100 diseases

that affect the bones, muscles and joints. So arthritis describes inflammation of a bone joint resulting from any number of different causes. Pain and swelling in the joints of hands and feet results in limited movement and mobility.

Specialist footwear can help to promote an active life and foot comfort. The arthritic foot is sensitive and swollen and painful joints require extra room to move. Shoes must be made of soft leather materials and have no rough edges inside. Arthritic feet have no real padding, the fatty pads that most people take for granted in their feet to cushion the bones are absent.

Shoes that help with arthritis have extra cushioning in key areas and shock absorbing insoles. They also have room inside to accommodate doctor prescribed orthotics or lifts. Also bearing in mind that arthritis affects the fingers as well as the feet, arthritis shoes also have easy to grip and operate fastenings.


Bunions can form on any part of the foot, but occur most commonly at the big toe joint. They are made when friction creates inflammation, resulting in excess fluid. If the pressure continues the fluid area hardens and you get rigidity of the bones, which is very painful. The pressure on the big toe often forces it into an inward facing position, and that’s a bunion. Once again badly fitting shoes cause bunions and high heels are the main culprits. Again, specialist shoes with enlarged toe boxes that reduce cramping and allow toes to move about make them more comfortable for bunion sufferers.

Adequate toe room is important, but as with other types of specialist shoe, it’s important that the rest of the shoe fits. You have to keep the heel snug in the shoe so the shoe stays on. Also as with arthritis shoes, the material must be soft and seamless inside to protect the protruding bones from additional harm and discomfort.

Back and Leg


Badly fitting shoes can give you back problems, but you can also get shoes which help with back strain. As with the other types of shoe for medical purposes, back pain reduction is all about posture. Specialist orthotic inserts in your shoes can modify your posture, reducing posture flaws like pronation (knees coming together and feet tilting inwards) and reduce your pain.

Further Reading

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