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Respected podiatrist Dr. Shannon Cairns shares her insight on footcare, shoes and her perspective on the boom in comfort footwear sales

Aug 10, 2018 4:38 PM Featured Products

1. What brought you into the field of podiatry?

"It all started in high school. I was walking home from a friend’s house and wearing flip flops. A large thorn went through my shoe and got stuck in my foot. I went to the ER and they thought they got it all out. A month passed and my foot was not healing and was very infected. I returned to the ER and was sent to a podiatrist. He sent me for an MRI and did surgery the next day to remove the thorn. I loved his passion about podiatry, and he told me that it was a great career to also be able to enjoy his family. I never forgot that whole experience and when I was deciding on a career path, podiatry was it!"

2. What is the driving reason behind visits to your practice, Toe-Tal Foot & Ankle Care?

"We see a variety of foot and ankle issues, but the most popular reasons are heel pain, bunion and hammertoe pain, and in-grown toenails."

3. ABC News reported that the majority of foot surgeries are performed on women in their 40’s and 50’s. What do you attribute that to?

"The majority of foot surgeries I perform are bunion and hammertoes. These foot deformities are progressive, so they worsen over time. Although the main factor in developing a bunion or hammertoe is actually foot type (hereditary), by the time women are in their 40’s and 50’s they have been doing things, such as wearing poor shoes or not stretching, that have contributed to progression of their pain and foot issues."

Respected podiatrist Dr. Shannon Cairns

4. According to the NPD Group research, sales of high heels are dropping in the double digits this year. Why do you think that is?

"It seems like everywhere you go, people are gravitating toward a healthier, minimalist lifestyle. I think this translates to shoe gear as well. Women want to take care of themselves and be more active. Also, many work places have accepted the idea that high heels are not healthy foot options, and have adopted a more casual and comfortable dress code. I also think that with the ability to look everything up on the internet, people are educated themselves and realizing that their foot pain can be prevented if they make better shoe gear choices."

5. Many women are turning to ballet flats as a chic alternative. Are ballet flats in general a better option?

"Ballet flats are a great alternative to high heels as a dress shoe. The danger here is that many women assume that just because the shoe is flat, it’s good for their feet. This is not always the case. The shoe still needs to have proper arch and heel support, and be well constructed to provide comfort and prevent foot pain and injury."

6. We’re flattered to see that you wear the SAS Scenic ballet flat on your popular blog The Freckled Foot Doctor. Could you tell us why you like the Scenic?

"The Scenic is a great shoe. Not only is it stylish for work or date night, but it is constructed very well, offering the perfect combination of arch support and cushion. My feet always feel great, no matter how long I wear them throughout the day."

The Freckled Foot Doctor

7. What advice do you have for women who stand most of their work-day?

"Women who stand most of their work day should ensure that they are selecting a shoe with a cushioned heel and sturdy arch support. It’s also important to stretch at least 2-3 times daily. This is the simplest, and most overlooked thing that you can do for your foot health and to prevent pain."

8. What are some features of properly made shoes we should be looking for?

"You should make sure that shoes have a roomy toe box so your toes are not crammed together. They should be constructed of high quality materials such as leather. A cushioned insole to provide comfort. Sturdy heel counter to prevent rolling your ankle or other injury. Solid arch support is the most important. You should not be able to fold your shoes in half (like a flip flop)."

9. What are the most common complaints of your patients? And what are the main causes of their complaints?

"One of the most common complaints and conditions we see is heel pain. There are two main factors that contribute to this: poor shoe gear (no support, shoes too old, wrong size), and tight calves and heel cord. As adults age, they stretch less and less. It is rare to see a child with plantar fasciitis (heel pain), because they are so flexible. It is important to stretch daily to prevent foot pain from recurring."

10. What are the long term effects of wearing high-heels and poorly constructed shoes?

"Most foot problems are hereditary based on foot type, meaning you might not be able to completely prevent that bunion! You can, however, prevent foot issues from progressing and worsening over time by choosing proper shoe gear. Wearing high heels causes your Achilles tendon to stay in a contracted position which interferes with the proper functioning of your foot. Your foot functions best at 90 degrees! You are also adding extra pressure to the forefoot, which can cause stress fractures or nerve entrapment. Also, your ankle is in a very unstable position, leaving you vulnerable to injury. All of these things lead to progression of foot deformities over time."

11. What can people do to improve their foot health?

"Selecting high quality shoes and stretching! I can’t stress this enough. You have to wear good shoes and you should be stretching 2-3 times daily in order to prevent and treat foot pain."