Why do my feet hurt?

Ever had a blackened toenail, or worse lost a toenail, or had blisters so bad that you can’t stand anything touching your feet? Ever wonder why this is happening to you and not your walking buddy when you both bought exactly the same boots as each other, because a magazine recommended them?

The answer lies partly in the last sentence. The main thing that many people don’t take into account is that their feet are very different from everyone else’s. After years of study and suffering terrible feet problems himself a gentleman named Phil Oren has devised a bench mark system in boot fitting called quite simply “The Fit System by Phil Oren” and you can see this on his website, www.fitsystembyphiloren.com

The reason I am now writing this is quite simple really; I bought myself a nice new pair of Meindl Nepal Pro boots for all season walking, and like anyone who buys themselves new boots I was kind of proud of them. I took them on long walks all through the hills of Scotland and I just adored them but I did get a couple of blisters from time to time. I didn’t however think anything of it. In fact, I thought it was perfectly natural considering how much walking I was doing with them.

The Revelation

Now it’s not until you taste a good French wine that you realise just how bad a bottle of Thunderbird is. So I went along to the training course with an open mind and a little bit too much ego. What I learned completely wiped out everything I had thought about buying and fitting boots. So I’m going to give a little bit of an insight.

Let us first understand what is happening when we walk. Each time the foot strikes the ground we apply pressure to our heel bone (calcaneus). This bone has developed over thousands of years to walk on soft earth, and adapt to the uneven ground it walked over, but these days we mostly walk on flattened hard surfaces. Even the shoes we wear have a flat surface under the soft manufacturer's insole. This tends to compress very quickly adding extra volume, causing more fit problems. The foot will continue to adapt to the surface (flat) allowing the foot to over-pronate.

What is pronation?

Let me explain. Pronation is a normal foot function, that allows the foot to adapt to a surface and absorb shock. We all pronate when running and walking. However over- pronation is what we are trying to avoid. Over-pronation can cause many common injuries such as Black Toes, Burning under the ball of the foot, Bunions, Swollen ankles, Shin splints, Knee & Lower back pain.

Another very common problem is Plantar Fasciitis. This is a toe off injury causing heel pain. The Plantar Fascia is a fibrous band that attaches the heel to the toes. We can measure your Elongation using the Brannock foot measurer.

When the foot elongates the toes are forced into the front of the footwear. Although you may not think that your foot wear is too small, have a look at your feet when you’re sitting and your feet are rested. Do your toes try to squeeze into each other or do they point straight out? If they cuddle up to each other, your feet are being squeezed too far into the front.

The Boot

All boot manufacturers use a last to make their products. These lasts are a very expensive thing to have made, so many manufacturers make their boots using one specific last shape but use different width fittings. When choosing a boot, always seek advice from a boot fitter who has knowledge of their product. This will be invaluable to getting the right support and fit. We need to stabilize the foot inside the boot to prevent future problems. This is prevention not cure.

How do we do this? There are many products that can help. As well as getting the right shape of boot, we also need to make sure that the foot is supported through the stride; the only product that I recommend for this is “Superfeet™”. Superfeet will help us attain a good fit by stabilising the foot and reducing the amount of elongation.


Superfeet are an accommodative footbed that help support the foot throughout the entire stride. They do this by holding the heel bone in the correct place as you walk and they are pre-cast which means that they are fitted as non weight bearing. This is to say that you are not pronating when the footbed is measured for you.

As you can see, when the foot pronates, it affects much more than just the foot, but we are only concerned with the foot for this article.

As the foot is stabilised the amount of elongation is reduced thus allowing us to keep the widest part of the foot in the widest part of the footwear. By doing this we are reducing the amount of pressure that is exerted on the toes and the metatarsal heads. When the first methead (knuckle joint of the big toe) rubs continuously against the inside of the footwear it can build a callus. If this is not corrected it can result in the first methead building a calcium deposit on the joint and forming a bunion. Corns are also a concern when the toes a being forced into the end of the footwear.

Having correctly fitting footwear easily prevents these problems and many others.

The moral of the story is: don’t take your feet for granted!!

Paddy Cairns and Andy Blair, Craigdon Sports, Aberdeen

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