Goodbye, Foot Pain: When Style and Comfort Meet

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NEW YORK CITY -- You can't go wrong with the perfect pair of shoes. The right color and style can make you feel like a star --but put on the wrong pair, and it's sheer agony.

Many women spend a lot of money on shoes that may not see the light of day. The average American woman owns 17 pairs of shoes, but only wears three on a regular basis.

Many of the women CBN News polled on the streets of Washington, D.C., and New York City kept an extra pair of heels at work.

But not everyone can walk in the store and buy shoes off the rack.

"I teach children and am on my feet all day," one woman told CBN News. "Being comfortable, appropriate for work, somewhat stylish, all three and then in a size 11 -- it's hard. It's hard to find."

Designer Anyi Lu

Such was the case for shoe designer Anyi Lu. She had the opposite problem -- finding shoes who wears a size 3.5. She was forced to wear children's shoes for most of her life.

The former DuPont engineer and dancer started her successful company eight years ago.

"My sister called me the day before her wedding and said 'I need you to do me a favor, I need you to go buy me a pair of shoes that probably have 2-3 inches height. I need to wear them for my wedding,' and I said, 'That's not you,'" Lu said.

Lu's sister already had a pair of shoes but could only wear them for a total of 15 minutes.

"And I thought 'Man, I'm not the only one.' And that's the perfect example of how many events we attend that by the middle of the wedding or the middle of the event, half the women are wearing beautiful dresses without their shoes," Lu told CBN News.

Some women choose fashion over sensibility and eventually end up in the office of a podiatrist.

"I tell people who have foot problems, 'Put your tennis shoe or your sandal on while you're getting ready in the morning and maybe even when you're driving to church,'" Jennifer Purvis, DPM, FACFA, with the Landmark Foot and Ankle Center, said. "And then change into your shoe right before you walk in and if you have to run errands afterward, you put that sensible shoe back on."

Most people will walk some 75,000 miles by the time they're 50 -- that's like walking around the Earth five times, which is why it's so important that we take care of our feet.

Common Foot Problems

"The foot and ankle is a very complex structure. It is made up of more than 26 bones and ligaments," Purvis explained. "It's not normal to have any foot pain whether you're a child or an adult. It's a warning sign that there's something wrong in the body."

And although millions of men and women suffer from foot problems, many won't bother to see a doctor.

The most common problems?

  • Pain in the heel, arch and ball of the foot
  • Tendon issues in the ankles, bunions, hammer toes
  • Problems with toenails, ingrown and otherwise

And we make these worse by wearing the wrong shoes.

"There's a problem called "pump bump" where the shoe can actually rub up on the back of the heel," Purvis said.

If you have fallen arches, you'll need more support than the typical shoe may give.

What about those painful bunions and hammer toes? They're usually hereditary but Purvis noted wearing the wrong shoes can also cause those problems.

"We tend to do things to our feet such as squeeze them into pointy toed shoes or pretty high heels," she said.

And when it comes to ingrown toenails, you can usually prevent those by cutting them yourself, straight across.

Choosing the Right Shoes

If you must wear a dress shoe, look for one with a heel that's two inches or less.

If you walk a lot, choose shoes for comfort such as a sneaker that gives you nice arch support. An orthotic in your shoe is always an option.

There's nothing worse than walking around in an uncomfortable pair of shoes, no matter how good looking they are. But trends are changing and that's good news for your feet.

"It's not just the type of situation where you go make a shoe and put cushioning in it and all of a sudden it's comfortable," Robert Goldberg of Harry's Shoes cautioned.

"You probably have to pay a little bit more for the shoes," he added. "But there's definitely some very cosmetically appealing shoes that patients wouldn't be embarrassed to walk around in that still give support for the foot."

'Couture Comfort'

That brings us back to designer Anyi Lu. The thought of wearing orthopedic shoes can be devastating.

Her goal: to create shoes that look as good as they feel, a style she calls "couture comfort."

"I am my own testimonial in some ways," Lu told CBN News. "I serve women just like me and like you. We have very demanding schedules. I am a mother. I am a working woman."

"We engineers we solve problems," she continued. "If we can send men walking on the moon how can we not have a collection of shoes for women that we can look chic and walk."

Anyi Lu's Fall/Winter 2013 Collection

Lu wants to empower women.

"Not being able to stand on 4-inch heels when you are 40 is not a crime," Lud said.

Lu said wearing high heels and platform shoes in your 20s might have been fun, but "we all know things do change after you have kids and after you get a little older."

"What you didn't take care of before will come back to haunt you. Sometimes it's genetics and you realize that your feet now have problems. It could range from bunions to drop of the arch," she said.

She wants to tell them that they can look good and feel good at every stage in life, and that's something that retailers want to pass on to their customers.

"They want to make sure their footwear is relevant to their clothing," Goldberg said.

And as for Anyi Lu's shoes, Goldberg said, "They look great, and nobody's knows you're wearing comfort shoes. It's just the secret of the wearer."

Clothing store owner Betsy Fisher agreed.

"A woman looks far better when she's walking comfortably than when she's tottering, wearing uncomfortable shoes," Fisher told CBN News.

"Women have so many choices. Comfort is… important to so many women…especially if a designer wants to work in quality materials," she continued. "She has to justify the cost of working with beautiful leathers and gorgeous finishes by making sure it's a shoe that a woman can wear all day."

And people are taking note.

"I'm trying to be stylish, but comfort is more my priority," one woman said.

And if you ever need a little pick me up, always remember, "If you want to forget all of life's troubles, wear tight shoes. We all have much more important things to think about so keep your feet comfortable and healthy," Purvis said.

Listen to an excerpt from our interview with designer Anyi Lu.

We didn't forget about the men. Listen to Dr. Purvis' expert advice on picking the right shoe.

True or False? Some women can't wear flats?

Dr. Purvis has some great advice for the feet of your little ones, teens, and tweens.

Congratulations! You're pregnant!! Don't forget to take care of your feet! Dr. Purvis has some great advice on what happens to your feet during your pregnancy as your center of gravity shifts.

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CBN News
Robin Mazyck and Jennifer Wishon

Robin Mazyck and Jennifer Wishon

Washington, D.C. Bureau Chief and CBN White House Correspondent

CBN News is a national/international, nonprofit news organization that provides programming by cable, satellite, and the Internet, 24-hours a day. Follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Google+.