One of my absolute favourite things about holidays is seeing new cities, and by far the best way to explore is on foot. I often love an early morning run though the quiet streets before cities come to life, but I really love just meandering the streets, stumbling upon cute marketplaces, nice cafes and maybe a few cultural attractions along the way. That’s all fun and exciting until your feet get really, really, sore, and suddenly walking to Rome’s best gelato stand seems like too much of an effort. What a way to spoil a holiday.
Well, there is a simple fix. Footwear. Our feet are probably one of the most important parts of our body when you think about it, right? We use them to stand, walk, run, swim, drive, and dance. Yet, despite them being essential to everyday life we really don’t stop to give them much thought. We ram them into shoes of all shapes and sizes on a daily basis, often sacrificing comfort and support for fashion.
Did you know that the feet contain more than 50 bones, 60 joints and over 200 muscles, ligaments and tendons to hold them together and allow for all the high impact demands we place on them? They have three arches which all play an important role in the correct functioning and alignment of the feet. You may be surprised to learn that problems with your feet can very quickly turn into problems with your knees and hips.
If you know you are headed out for a jam packed day of sightseeing, opt for the shoes that are most comfortable and that give your arches enough support. A good quality pair of lightweight running shoes will lend themselves very well to a lot of walking, because they are supportive, breathable, and generally well-padded so they will be your best choice. Also, remember footwear is a very individual thing. For me, a good fit will always trump fashion, technology and scientific evidence.
How do you know? A useful little quick test is to hold the shoe by the heel and bend the toe of the shoe backwards and take note of where it bends. A more supportive shoe will bend easily at the ball of the foot, whereas a less supportive shoe will bend halfway along the arch, indicating there may be a lack of midfoot support.
I suggest you stop right there if you are reaching for your ultra flexible, fashionable sneakers. I know they are super bright, colourful & amazingly cool, but they offer very little support for your feet. The same goes for those brand new summer strappy sandals.
Buying Holiday Footwear
- Get your feet checked. Most running or sports stores do a basic measure and foot alignment assessment, that way you know if you need a neutral shoe, minimal or maximal support which will then guide you to which shoe to buy.
- Comfort always trumps fashion. The best colour combination may not always be the healthiest option.
- If you have a preferred brand that has worked for you in the past, take them to the store, that way you can get a similar model.
- If you wear orthotics, make sure you take them along with you to buy the shoes. You need to try them on as you will wear them.
Emma Esslemont is a physiotherapist, personal trainer, wellbeing blogger.
She is a self-confessed fitness and food fanatic with a passion for living a healthy lifestyle and helping others to do so too.