Pedorthist Owen Oo tells us how to choose our shoes
“My message to everyone is to learn to appreciate and love their feet. When your feet feel good, you feel good too.”
Our member from Singapore – Owen Oo was recently in Ezyhealth Magazine (Medical Express July 14) see online – and with their kind permission we have reproduced their interview with Owen.
There is a Chinese belief that the state of one’s feet is linked to the overall health of the body. Well, it is certainly true that how your feet feel have a huge impact on the state of your mind. Poor quality or ill-fitting shoes can leave you feeling irritable and grouchy after suffering in them all day. Your feet bear the entire weight of your body when you walk or stand, which is no mean feat!
Meet Owen Oo, a man who knows first-hand just how important it is to keep our feet healthy and happy. A pedorthist or professional shoe fitter, Owen has in-depth knowledge of the anatomy and biomechanics of the foot and is trained in the art of shoe fitting. He is able to prescribe the right footwear and even modify footwear and employ the right supportive devices to alleviate foot conditions. Owen was certified as a Pedorthist in 2006 by the Board of Certification of Pedorthics, Inc. USA. He is also among the three Qualified Members of the Society of Shoe Fitters (UK) practicing in Singapore. Since 2005, Owen has helped raise awareness on foot health and footwear, through his many talks and workshops in Singapore and Malaysia.
Now a pedorthist at Arch Angel, a unique footwear concept store that carries stylish yet supremely comfortable shoes as well as footwear accessories, Owen is a strong advocate for placing our feet first when it comes to how we choose our shoes. “Our feet have no off days, they work 7 days a week. Will you be happy working 7 days a week without an off day? So it is no surprise that most of us will have unhappy feet at some time of our life.”
Pedorthics is a specialised field. What drew you to pedorthics? Did you have any interest in this when you were young? Owen: I got involved in pedorthics about 10 years ago, when I started a US based footwear franchise business in Malaysia for my brother. I was trained by the US Franchisor in Pedorthics in Atlanta, USA. I did not have any interest in this field when I was young. But I first started selling shoes in the Sunday market when I was about 12 years old.
How do Singaporeans measure up when it comes to their feet – happy feet, or not? Owen: Our feet have no off days, they work 7 days a week. Will you be happy working 7 days a week without an off day? So it is no surprise that most of us will have unhappy feet at some time of our life. Singaporeans usually take their feet for granted. Very often, we only realise the importance of our feet when they are hurt or after we have lost our mobility. My message to everyone is to learn to appreciate and love their feet. When your feet feel good, you feel good too.
What are people most ignorant about when it comes to shoes and their feet? Owen: Most people choose their shoes to suit their eyes, instead of their feet. So beauty comes before comfort. With such a mindset, it is very common to see people trying to force their feet into shoes that look good but do not fit their feet. They should instead be looking for shoes that match the size and shape of their feet. This is the point most people are ignorant of in shoe fitting. It is also the most common cause of foot problems and foot discomfort.
Can foot problems be caused solely because of the wrong footwear, and cured simply by modifying the footwear? Do share some examples. Owen: There are many possible causes of foot problems. Hence it is incorrect to say that a foot problem is caused solely by the wrong footwear. However, from my shoe fitting experience, wrong footwear and poor fitting shoes are very common causes of foot problems. For example, corns and calluses are very common symptoms of localised pressure exerted onto the feet by illfitting shoes. Common sense will also tell you that squeezing all your five toes into ice cream cone shoes over a prolonged period will likely cause deformity to the shape of your feet. It takes time for the foot condition to deteriorate. By the time the foot hurts, the damage to the foot is quite substantial. We cannot expect the pain to disappear immediately by just simply modifying the footwear, as the foot needs time to heal.
Please share with us your tips on choosing the right footwear. Owen: Here are some tips for choosing the right footwear: Fit: Shoe size must conform to foot size. To be comfortable, there must be complete mating of the foot and the shoe. To ensure that,you should get your feet measured by professional shoe fitters to determine the right size of shoes to match your feet. If you have one foot that measures larger than the other, you should ensure that your shoes are big enough to suit the larger foot. Your shoe fitter should be able to make adjustment to the shoes to match the smaller foot during the shoe fitting.
Shape: You should also ensure that there is a reasonable match between the shapes of the shoes to the shape of your feet. A person with broad and fleshy feet should look for shoes with enough width and girth to accommodate the feet. Likewise, someone with narrow feet should look for narrower shoes that are more suitable to fit narrow feet.
Try shoes when standing and walking: Your feet are dynamic in size and shape. They will be larger when you are standing than when you are sitting. So ensure that you are comfortable with the shoes by trying them while standing and walking.
Materials: The shoes’ upper materials contribute a lot to foot comfort. Leathers are usually preferred because of their breathability, conformity, light weight and suppleness. Some upper materials like stretchable leathers can be very accommodating for broad feet or bunions because of their ability to stretch.
Construction: The construction of the shoes should have structural integrity to maintain the shape, stability and functionality of the shoes. For example, features like good arch supports and cushioning pads at strategic locations inside the shoes can help to distribute the pressure under the foot, thus contributing to comfort. A pair of shoes with strong heel counters can also help to stabilise the walking pattern of a person, by controlling the excessive motion of the rear foot with the strong heel counter.
Underfoot resilience: On an average day, a person walks about 8000 steps. It is therefore important to have good cushioned outsoles for your shoes, to help to absorb step shocks between your feet and the hard ground.
Wearing the right shoes for the right occasions: Not all good-looking shoes are comfortable at all times. It is also true that not all comfortable shoes are perfectly good-looking too. On occasions when we need to look good, we may wear dressy shoes which may be less comfortable. But we should be wise enough to minimise harm to our feet by not walking or standing too long in those shoes. On occasions when we need to walk and stand for long periods, we should wear shoes that are more accommodating and comfortable.
What gives you the most satisfaction in your line of work? Owen: It makes my day when I help someone find the best fitting shoes for his/her feet and rediscover the joy of walking again.
Being a pedorthist, I’m sure you are particular about your shoes. So are you a shoe lover yourself? Tell us if you have a favourite pair of shoes. Owen: Yes, I am very particular with my selection of shoes. I look at the key features and benefits of the shoes, starting from the fitting to the comfort point of view. Being a shoe lover, I have quite a number of shoes. My favourite is a pair of Finn Comfort from Germany.
ED: I THINK THE SSF FOUNDER MEMBERS BACK IN 1959 WOULD BE EXTREMELY PROUD THAT OUR MESSAGE – THE IMPORTANCE OF SHOE FITTING FOR OUR HEALTH AND WELLBEING – IS BEING BROADCAST SO PERFECTLY ON THE OPPOSITE SIDE OF THE WORLD. THANK YOU OWEN YOU ARE A TREMENDOUS AMBASSADOR FOR THE SOCIETY OF SHOE FITTERS.