Your feet bear the full weight of your body, so it should be of no surprise when many foot disorders are directly tied to poorly fitted shoes and the abuse of feet.
When just one small bone or muscle in your foot is injured, it can affect your body's ability to carry out daily activities.
"Improperly fitting shoes contribute to a wide range of long-lasting foot problems," said Deborah Parra, president of ABC Medical Services in Lansing, Ill. "Too often, consumers will fit their foot to the shoe instead of fit the shoe to the foot - and without regard for foot shape, arch support, adequate room for toes or material construction of the shoe."
Orthopedic shoes and products, however, provide solutions to a growing consumer base of those experiencing foot problems - and more and more of these shoes aren't coming at the expense of fashion.
Several companies now manufacture orthopedic shoes, slippers and socks - and depending on a person's condition, these items may be covered under Medicare or other insurance.
While some brands help diabetics seek shoes with special features, other companies reach out to athletes looking for shoes with arch support and heel stabilization. There are even children's shoes available that provide proper support to growing feet.
Parra, a registered nurse and licensed pedorthist, says pedorthic services is a specialty requiring licensure in Illinois, and ABC Medical Services has two pedorthists and one certified shoe fitter on staff.
The company recently became an exclusive retailer for a new therapeutic shoe line produced by Dr. Comfort that aims to reduce knee pain. According to a news release from Dr. Comfort, studies conducted at Rush University Medical Center in Chicago indicate people who wear the shoes experience an average knee load reduction of 20 percent.
"Orthopedic shoes can over time help to slow the progression of certain chronic problems such as osteoarthritis of the knee," Parra said.
When searching for a pair of orthopedic shoes, Parra says to consider your goal.
"The word 'orthopedic' means to prevent or correct skeletal deformities," she said.
One person's goal may be to relieve pain, while another person may have special needs such as the diabetic foot that has decreased nerve sensation.
Others may simply want more comfort and support in their shoes. Features to consider include good arch support, a wide toe box, extra depth, modest heels, breathable fabric and lining that helps reduce moisture.
The most important feature to consider, Parra says, is finding the right size and shape for your feet.