These shoes were made for walking and working

August 27, 1998

Enzo AnglioliniBy KATE COLEMAN / Staff Writer

We all remember Cinderella's stepsisters trying to squeeze their big feet into the fair maiden's tiny glass slipper.

We look with horror and disbelief at the Chinese custom of foot binding, the process of bandaging young girls' smaller toes under their feet so that the bones eventually would stop growing. Although they couldn't easily run or jump and later wouldn't be able to walk without support, their tiny and delicate feet met the culture's standard of beauty and femininity.

--cont. from lifestyle--

Have we come a long way?

Maybe, maybe not.

Women have about 90 percent of the 795,000 annual surgeries for bunions, hammertoes, trapped nerves and bunionettes - the four most common problems linked to poorly designed and poorly fitting shoes, according to The American Orthopaedic Foot and Ankle Society, a nonprofit organization whose members are orthopaedic surgeons with a special interest in feet and ankles.


Payless Shoesource: Highlights Sculp"Bunion problems do not occur in populations that do not wear shoes. This is purely a problem industrialized society has brought upon itself," says Dr. Thomas G. Amalfitano, an orthopedic surgeon in practice in Hagerstown.

Are modern women slaves to fashions that can hurt and deform their feet? Maybe, maybe not.

There's hope in the results of a survey of 500 American women who work outside the home. Commissioned by The American Orthopaedic Foot and Ankle Society, the October 1997 survey revealed that women are walking away from high heels.

Only one in four reported wearing shoes with a heel higher than 1 inch.

Fewer than 3 percent of the women polled said they wore heels higher than 2 1/4 inches.

Even fewer younger women in the survey - 16 percent of the 20- to 30-year-olds - acknowledged wearing heels higher than 1 inch to work.

On a recent work day, Fawn Evenson, president of Footwear Industries of America, was in her Washington, D.C., office wearing a business suit and a pair of "nice" flat shoes.

Evenson has been with the national association for footwear manufacturers, distributors and suppliers to the leather trades for 25 years. She says she never would have worn flats 10 years ago.

"The whole casualization of dress and accessories in America has had an impact on footwear," Evenson believes.

Comfort is in

Easy Spirit: Casual CypressComfort is really in as far as women are concerned, she adds.

For Margaret Rhoads, comfort is the No. 1 criterion in choosing shoes. She says she would wear flats if she weren't so short - she's 5-foot-1-inch tall. On the go, in and out of the office and in and out of her car, she opts for basic, simple, unadorned pumps with 1 1/2-inch heels she describes as "kind of fat."

"It doesn't matter what it looks like. If it's uncomfortable, I'm going to look bad," Rhoads says.

As Hagerstown branch manager of Manpower, a staffing service, Rhoads has been placing people in jobs for 16 years. Rhoads makes recommendations on how her clients should dress. In a "professional" office environment, Rhoads considers a suit or dress and low-heeled shoes or nice loafers appropriate.

Rhoads says a majority of local offices are casual, and she sees more women wearing sneakers. Her observation is confirmed by the American Orthopaedic Foot and Ankle Society survey, which reported one in five women wearing athletic or walking shoes in the workplace - up from 14 percent in a 1990 survey.

Seal of approval

Reebok Gusto DMXThe 1997 survey was commissioned to identify the brands and models of shoes women most commonly wear to work.

Then the society had those shoes scientifically tested on features including cushioning, heel height, shape of toe box, breathability and slip resistance.

In May, the organization announced the recipients of its "Seal of Approval" - three dress shoes and an athletic shoe.

You may not want to buy these particular shoes, and you may not need that "seal of approval" to know that a shoe is good for your feet. But here's a little test recommended by the society to help you see where you and your shoes stand:

Stand on a piece of paper and have a friend draw a tracing of your weight-bearing bare foot.

Take the dress shoes you usually wear and place them over the tracing. If your forefoot is much larger and rounder than the toe box of your shoe, you can bet your boots you may be stepping right up to painful foot problems in the future.

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