Boots shopping 101

Your choice of boots will play a big role in how your feet fare this winter. (For Spectrum Health Beat)

It’s that time of year again—time to start thinking about what boots you’ll wear when you’re trudging through snow, slopping through slush and traversing the ice.

If you’re in the market for new boots, keep in mind these 10 tips from Brian Buchanan, DPM, a foot and ankle specialist with Spectrum Health Medical Group Foot & Ankle.

1. Your feet change in size as you age.

Your feet are not immune from the effects of aging.

As we get older, our arches tend to collapse, causing our feet to get longer and wider. With seasonal footwear like winter boots, it’s easy to end up in the wrong size. Don’t assume you’re the same shoe size as last year.

“Getting measured is very important,” Dr. Buchanan said. “This is potentially a big issue as people do more shoe shopping online.”

2. Too small equals cold feet.

If your winter boots (or ski boots) are too tight or too small, your feet get cold faster, which can become a serious issue. There should be room for air to circulate within the boot.

When you go to be measured at a full-service shoe store, try to go mid-day or mid-afternoon. As the day goes on, our feet swell, so a shoe that fits at 9 a.m. might be very tight at 6 p.m.

3. Boots with any size heel do not mix with ice.

Take this advice straight from a doctor who sees a lot of ankle fractures and foot injuries from slips and falls on the ice.

“With a winter boot, a heel is dangerous because it’s more unstable,” Dr. Buchanan said. “You have to be very, very cautious.”

4. Good tread equals good traction.

Make sure your boots are going to grip the ground.

The flat, slippery sole of fashion boots can be treacherous in slippery outdoor winter conditions, Dr. Buchanan said. The best tread will be on boots that are marketed for outdoor winter walking.

5. Boots with a pointed toe might look good, but they’re not good for you.

Boots that come to a point at the toe increase the rate of foot problems for women.

A sharp-pointed boot pushes the toes together, increasing bunion deformities and pressure points on the foot, Dr. Buchanan said.

6. Wrap your feet in warmth.

A winter boot should have the appropriate liner to keep your feet warm and dry. Look for waterproof, wool or sheepskin liners.

7. Two socks are better than one.

To keep your feet warm during extended periods of time in cold temperatures, consider wearing two pairs of thin socks rather than one thick pair to help prevent blistering, Dr. Buchanan said.

8. Keep an eye on your kids’ boots during the winter.

Children’s feet grow so fast that something that fits in November might not fit in February. Add to this the fact that kids tend to push the limit of how long they stay outside in the cold, and it can be a recipe for disaster.

Make sure their boots are big enough for air to circulate and keep their feet warm.

9. Outdoor conditions call for outdoor boots.

Wear fashion boots inside, for shorter periods of time during which you will not do much walking. Before going outside, change into winter boots designed for outdoor use.

“It really becomes a question of function of the shoe,” Dr. Buchanan said.

10. Happy feet lead to a happy body.

Robbing your feet of the support and care they need can lead to bigger issues in your knees, hips and back.

Start with a firm foundation with your winter boots, and you can ward off other ailments, according to Dr. Buchanan.

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