What to Look for in Your Shoes to Avoid Knee and Ankle Injury

It’s a beautiful autumn afternoon. You’re strolling through the park enjoying the sight of golden leaves. All of a sudden, wham, you roll your ankle. After sitting for a moment and perhaps uttering a couple of small swear words, you limp your way back home. But what if it didn’t need to happen? What if it wasn’t from the road or your form?

What if it’s your shoes?

It isn’t just athletes who need to worry about how shoes affect their knees and ankles. We wear shoes for most of the day, walking, shopping, and rushing back to the office. Understanding the part they play in our overall health is important.

How shoes affect your life

Sure, you can walk barefoot, but, let’s face it: your boss probably wouldn’t like it, and shoes are cute. The types of shoes we wear affect how we walk, how we use our muscles, and how we support our weight. Choosing the right shoes is a lot more important than just making sure they match your outfit. Your feet and legs are the pedestals the rest of your body rests upon. If they aren’t healthy and comfortable, you’ll have problems.

How heels affect your knees and ankles

The height of your heels affects how much pressure you exert on your knees. The higher the heel, the more pressure you put on your knees. This is because your center of gravity is pitched slightly forward. So rather than keeping your body straight, your knees are constantly in a slightly crouched position. Over time, this puts wear on the joints. It also puts the knee more at risk for injury.

But your ankles aren’t out of the woods, either. While a slightly high heel doesn’t affect the ankle, high heels put your ankles at significant risk — especially stiletto or thin high heels. This is because the ankle is constantly working to keep your body balanced on a tiny platform. Any damage to the heel may cause the entire foot to roll, stretching the tendons of the ankle and causing sprains, tears, or even a possible break.

High-top vs. low-top athletic shoes

It may seem that high-top athletic shoes protect your ankles better. But that may not be the case. A study published in the Journal of Foot and Ankle Research reports no difference between athletes who wore high-top shoes as opposed to those who wore low-top shoes.

However, the researchers noted that high-top athletic shoes prevent the ankle from moving as much as the ankles of low-top users. This means that the ankles of the study’s high-top participants weren’t able to flex as much. Over time, those athletes’ ankles became less flexible and possibility more prone to injury.

Choosing the right shoes for you

When looking for the right shoes to protect your knees and ankles, start by ignoring the brand name on the shoe. Those stylish tags won’t make your feet more comfortable or your walk safer.

Instead, look at the shoes. You want shoes that have a flexible foot bed. Test the flexibility by bending the shoe toward the laces. If the shoe bends easily, it’ll support your foot while allowing you to move comfortably.

Next, look at the heel height. For everyday wear, avoid shoes that have heels high enough to put weight on the balls of your feet. This is a signal that you’re also putting stress on your knees.

Finally, look for a tread that is just slightly wider than the sole of the shoe. This prevents your foot from rolling and protects your ankle.

Other options

But what if you must wear heels or you have a favorite type of running shoe? There are other options. You can try commercially made insoles to provide better support for your feet. Or, if you want to protect your knees and ankles, simply call Dominique Nickson, MD, at Next Step Orthopedics or use the online booking tool. Dr. Nickson can build you a set of custom insoles and help you find the right shoes for your life and your lifestyle.

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