Make no mistake about it: “Shopping is a sport,” maintains podiatrist Lori Weisenfeld, spokeswoman for the Sunset Park-based footcare line ProFoot.
Now that the final weekend of holiday gift shopping is here, otherwise sedentary readers might feel compelled to attempt a present-buying marathon, sprinting up 86th Street in Bay Ridge, weaving between pedestrians on Park Slope’s Fifth or Seventh avenues, or hopping in and out of boutiques on Smith Street.
It might be necessary to pound the hard, unforgiving floors of shopping centers like Kings Plaza or the Atlantic Terminal Mall in search of the perfect tokens of your affection.
Whether you’re racing on the streets or in the malls, you’ll no doubt feel you’re participating in a triathlon as you hike your bags and bundles up and down subway stairs or on and off buses.
And just as athletes can encounter aches and pains after an athletic event, shopping can leave you with a pain in the back, legs and feet – just when you want to sit down and enjoy the sight of your friends and family unwrapping the gifts you’ve worked so hard to collect.
“People come back from shopping, and their back and legs hurt them, but they don’t make the connection with their feet,” explained Weisenfeld, a sports podiatrist. “But certainly, if feet are not cushioned, pain will work its way up the body.
“If they have flat feet, that puts pressure on the lower back and causes back and leg pain as well. If they have a high arch, shopping – especially in malls – is jarring – just horrible – for your feet. You’ll need more shock absorption.”
The good news, according to Weisenfeld, is that with some easy prevention preparation, you can lessen the chances that you’ll be bemoaning your back at Christmas Eve dinner.
Flat is not better
“People assume that a flat shoe that’s a slipper, like those little ballet slipper-style shoes or a little slide or mule, are the best way to go, but that’s the worst way to go for most people, especially if you are carrying heavy packages,” said Weisenfeld, who’s been practicing for 17 years. “What you want to do is have something with a lot of support and cushioning. Especially if your feet are flat, you need something more supportive, such as a good athletic shoe.”
If you don’t have a top-shelf pair of sneakers in your closet, one of the ProFoot products, available at Duane Reade and Rite Aid, could be an easy upgrade to your favorite pair of shoes and the prices are modest ($3.99-$7.99).
“You can add something into a less supportive shoe,” explained Weisenfeld. “One of the [ProFoot] products I like is the Smart Arch [Custom Fitting Orthotic]. The reason I like it is that it gives that combination of under-arch support and cushioning and the material they use holds the foot in place – it’s not sliding around so you’re less likely to get blisters and fatigue.”
You might not be able to avoid friction at your holiday gatherings, but you can make sure to keep it out of your shoes.
“One thing that will send you home from a shopping trip fast is a nasty blister, caused by friction,” explained Weisenfeld. “Before you leave home, make sure the shoes are fitting properly, that there isn’t any motion in the shoe or slippage in heel. Some people get friction between their toes, and they put Vaseline between them to prevent it.”
“Lace-up shoes are always better than slip-on shoes,” opines Weisenfeld, “and will give more support and stability in the shoe.”
Whether in a mall or in street-front stores, Weisenfeld said that many people find that their feet do swell after a shopping spree. Keep an eye out for chairs, benches or a food court or cafe, and take a moment to put those barking dogs up.
“If possible, elevate your feet,” advised Weisenfeld. “If you just sit on a chair, pointing and flexing your feet, it will exercise the muscles in the feet and lower leg.”
And after you get home, give your feet a bit more tender loving care.
She advises, “A good idea to get swelling down is to elevate the feet, and gently massage them.”
Two pairs are better
“A lot of people don’t think of this, but they should bring an extra pair of shoes – just a different pair of shoes. Halfway through shopping, they should switch off. They’ll be using their muscles just a little bit differently, giving the muscles a different workload, so they won’t fatigue as quickly.”
Don’t want to lug around an extra pair of shoes? Why not reward yourself for your thoughtfulness this holiday season and buy yourself a new pair? Then make the switch.
For tender soles
“If you have a very bony foot and pain in the ball of foot (where toes meet the rest of the foot) from lack of cushioning, avoid a thin-soled shoe,” advised Weisenfeld. “You want a nice, thick sole. A lot of women lose their fat pad there as they get older, so it gets more tender. If you normally find yourself in a situation where tenderness in that area is a problem, you can add something to your shoe for the ball of the foot. It takes pressure off and eases the area.”
ProFoot Marketing Vice President Dan Feldman, son of Dr. Leonard Feldman, the chiropractor who founded the company on 20th Street at Third Avenue in 1987, added, “Trying an over-the-counter arch support or cushion is not going to hurt, and it’s not a big investment. But if you consistently have a pain, it’s always wise to seek out a podiatrist. They’re the experts on the feet and have your personal best interest at heart.”
ProFoot products are available at Brooklyn’s Duane Reade or Rite Aid locations. For more information about the products, visit www.profootcare.com.