I have been volunteering at the homeless shelter in downtown Houston for 3-4 years; little did I suspect how this time would be so different. This past month I met and treated a young tall blonde haired, blue eyed 20-something-year-old named Nicole that came to the clinic. She looked normal, dressed in jean shorts and a tank top, but I saw she had no shoes on. Her feet were calloused with raw spots and cuts on the bottoms of her feet that were infected. She went on to tell me how she was from Florida and she lost custody of her two children who were now living with her ex-husband. She told me she was bipolar, has had trouble staying on her medications, and has abused drugs and alcohol. At this time she was really trying to clean herself up so she could get custody of her two children. She began to cry and told me the night before, she had been bullied and robbed by another homeless person. They stole her money, clothes and shoes. I wanted to take this girl home with me and give her a place to stay and sleep. I looked down at my feet and then to hers to see if I could give her my shoes, but her feet were about 2 sizes larger than mine. I went and looked at our stash of shoes and saw that we were low so, the only pair I could find in her size where a man’s pair of shoes, which she was very thankful for. I treated her feet, gave her a new pair of socks and the shoes.
From this experience, I was reminded that a homeless person can be anyone and how important a good fitting a pair of shoes is. Shoes are made to protect our feet, and when buying a pair of shoes you want to make sure that they are comfortable. You should never have to stretch or break in a pair of shoes. A good pair should feel great as soon as you put them on. You want to make sure that they fit right, not too tight and not too big. There should be about a ½ inch from your longest toe to the end of the shoe. Also you want to make sure that the shoe has a good rubber sole, and for females you want to keep the heel height anywhere from ½ inch to 2 inches. If you go any higher than you will be putting extra pressure on the ball of your foot. Avoid flat shoes with no sole, these typically have no support in the arch. If the shoe doesn’t give you enough support, you may need an orthotic or arch support to wear in your shoe. Orthotics can be over the counter or custom molded to your foot. The custom molded are more expensive, but well worth it if you need the extra support. I can attest to this personally as I can’t run without mine. 10 marathons later, I’m still running and my knees don’t hurt!
Happy shoe shopping and remember to give a little bit of your time to others.
(Photo by: Maria Buitrago, DPM)