These days there is a great range of stylish AND comfortable footwear available for all sorts of occasions. At a basic level what you’re looking for in a shoe is one that fits without slipping, that allows your toes some wiggle room, and that feels comfortable. Look at brands such as Moshulu, Gabor and Ecco, and the comfort or podiatry in-house brands of John Lewis, M&S and Debenhams for well-fitting, supportive, comfortable footwear. (More locally Wainwrights in Princes Risborough has a great range and skilled staff.)
Generally, women’s shoes very often narrow at the ball of foot and toes and squash them. Over time this can form bunions. These are painful and problematic to treat. Consider wearing shoes most of the time that allow your toes and ball of foot to wiggle and spread. Save elegant but bunion-forming shoes for special occasions.
Ankle boots are currently in fashion: choose wisely. Low boots often don’t provide much support and hold around the heel and ankle. You can you end up gripping with your calf and foot muscles, with the result that your foot and ankle can’t move properly. This can give you painful feet, ankle or knee joints, and if you’re unlucky, a painful sole of foot condition called plantar fasciitis. Look for comfort and a snug heel fit in your ankle boots, or don’t wear them for long periods of walking. Taller, calf-height boots can often have a better shape that follows the contours of your heel and ankle, so you can walk more comfortably without any foot gripping.
For the shoes that you spend the most time in, choose flats or a low heel. Very high heels or heels worn constantly can cause considerable postural, back and feet problems. But there are times when you may want to wear heels. Think about what you’ll be doing at these times. A wedge can be comfortable if you’re standing for long periods as it distributes the weight more easily across the sole. If you’re dancing or walking, wedges can restrict the natural movement of the foot, so consider a court shoe which tends to allow more foot and ankle movement as long as it isn’t too high. If you feel you need a bit of extra height, consider a heel with a platform. You get more height from the platform without adding extra heel inches and compromising your spine. Or use other hair, make-up and clothing style tricks to give an impression of lift and height – over to Katy who’s the expert.
Choosing a bra: breathing matters
Professional bra-fitting services correctly point out the importance of having a well-fitting band to provide support. But beware of bras that fit too tightly around the ribcage. This will restrict your breathing and rib/spine movement, which can lead to mid-back and neck discomfort. Get a balance between support and a level of comfort that allows you to breathe deeply without feeling restricted.
Swimwear to suit your spine
A quick word on swimwear. A halterneck style can be flattering, stylish and supportive. But if tied very tightly, it can pull your neck forward and out of line with the rest of your spine, causing neck discomfort – not what you want when relaxing on holiday.
If you wear skinny-style clothing for long periods of time, make sure that the fabric has some stretch. Skinny styles in rigid fabrics can restrict your natural joint movement, resulting in tight, stiff hips and back.
If you carry a very heavy handbag on one shoulder or in one hand, you end up hitching that shoulder and adapting your posture to counterbalance the weight. If you do this regularly it can contribute to back, neck, shoulder and even elbow and wrist pain. Put less in your bag, perhaps use the calendar on your 'phone rather than carrying a heavy diary and remove items that you don’t need. You could also consider using a bag with a strap that goes across your body, or a rucksack (use both straps, keep them quite snug to keep the bag close to your body.) These are kinder on your spine and allow you to maintain a natural posture. Try The Healthy Back Bag (online or in Wainwrights, Princes Risborough) for casual use, or the Radley brand for smarter cross-body bags. Ted Baker does a great range of hand-held handbags that also have a strap that allow you to carry the bag across your body when needed.
Viv Slater is a soft tissue therapist and owner of Move Well Massage with a clinic at Haddenham Medical Centre in South Buckinghamshire. Viv offers clinical and sports massage, remedial exercise and one to one yoga to help people move well and feel good.
t: 07847 013 293