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8 Steps to Find the Best Footwear for Multiple Sclerosis

Key Footwear Features to Look for if You Have MS

The right pair of shoes can make you look great, but with multiple sclerosis it's more important that you feel great and have ease of movement. Many people with MS struggle with balance, sensation in their feet, walking, and mobility issues and may have trouble finding footwear that fits the bill, but taking some simple steps can help. “MS has many faces, and it affects people in very different ways,” says Glenn B. Pfeffer, MD, director of the Foot and Ankle Program at the Cedars-Sinai Orthopaedic Center and a spokesman for the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons. “There are as many different shoes for people with MS as there are variations of MS.” The three biggest concerns affecting footwear for MS are sensory and balance issues and motor weakness. “Depending on how one is most affected in any of those areas will affect the shoes,” Dr. Pfeffer says.

Go for Comfortable Fit and Function

The most important factor in finding the right shoes for MS is comfortable fit over fashion, but you can still look for styles that you like and that make you feel good. Find shoes that fit comfortably right away, Pfeffer says -- don’t assume that you can break them in and they'll be comfortable after you’ve worn them a few times. “I think comfort has to be paramount for some people, even above fashion," he says. "If someone is not comfortable in their shoes, they’re going to be miserable. The shoe has to fit not only the foot but the person and their needs, depending on their MS."

Try Out Treads

The tread -- the pattern on the bottom of the shoes -- is an important footwear feature to look for to help you avoid falls, a concern when you're struggling with balance. Avoid smooth, slippery leather soles and instead opt for a rubber tread. The tread should look somewhat like a tire, Pfeffer says, with some cushioning and some corrugation that can help prevent slipping and skidding. Be aware that the thicker the sole, the heavier the shoe, so look for something that’s easy for you to walk in.

Speaking of Soles

Thick or thin soles? It depends on your MS symptoms and your particular needs. Someone with balance, walking, and mobility issues with MS may want a thicker-soled shoe that offers a little more stability. But thinner soles can be more beneficial for others. “If someone is having sensory loss, they often complain of not being able to feel the ground well,” Pfeffer says. “They may want to have a thinner-soled shoe so they can have a better sense of feedback.”

Check Shoes' Weight and Flexibility

When looking for the best footwear for MS, consider the weight and flexibility of the shoe. Someone experiencing trouble with motor loss may have trouble walking in a big, heavy shoe. In that case, a shoe made of lightweight, breathable material is the best bet. Someone with stability issues may benefit from a heavier, sturdier shoe with less flexibility, as this helps provide a bit more balance to help reduce the risk for falls, Pfeffer says. 

Skip High Heels and Backless Styles

Another important footwear feature to look for is the right heel height. Don’t wear anything with a heel higher than two inches, Pfeffer says, or your feet will hurt and you may have trouble walking. Also avoid any shoes that are backless, like mules or slip-ons, or that could slip off of your heel. Flip-flops are a definite no-no. “All of those shoes need a good sense of sensory feedback and toe strength to stay on,” Pfeffer says. “They become a danger because they can just fly off and add very little support.”

Opt for Easy Fasteners

If you’re able to tie your shoes easily, then shoes with laces are best. But if you struggle to tie your shoes, opt for a style with Velcro fasteners. If you like the laced-up look, Zackowski suggests trying a pair of elastic laces. Or shop for a special style of shoe that you tie once and it stays tied -- you slip the shoe off and on. They look like a regular lace-up pair, but come with none of the struggle.

Study the Shank

The shank is a metal piece in the sole of the shoe that gives it more stability and structure. But for many people with MS, a stiff shank can be a problem. “Walking in a stiff shoe is much harder,” says Kathleen Zackowski, PhD, OT, a physical therapist at the Kennedy Krieger Institute and associate professor of physical medicine and rehabilitation at the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine. However, others feel more comfortable in a stiff shoe, she says. Try on different types to see what feels best on your foot.

Rely on the Right Size

When it comes to the best footwear for MS, size matters most. “If your shoe doesn’t fit well, you have to use a lot more energy to keep the shoe on your foot,” Zackowski says. “If you can fit the shoe on your foot really well, you don’t have to worry about that part of walking.” Pfeffer suggests shoe shopping at the end of the day, when your feet tend to be swollen, and finding a shoe that is a half-inch longer than your longest toe.

Story Source: The above story is based on materials provided by EVERYDAYHEALTH
Note: Materials may be edited for content and length

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