Boots! A necessity when braving Wisconsin winters.

Walking through the snow, ice, and frigid temperatures of Central Wisconsin requires great tread and weatherproof warmth.

Good boots support your foot and provide protection against the elements, but that protection adds weight to your feet, which can stress and strain your joints.

Are your winter boots causing joint pain?

Possibly. If your boots are too heavy, they can lead to pain in your ankles, knees, and hips. The weight of some boots mimics the effect of ankle weights.

But orthopedic specialists, physical therapists, and kinesiotherapists do not recommend wearing weights on your feet or ankles because the risk of injury far outweighs the benefits.

Heavy boots stress your joints

Boots can change the way your foot hits the ground, cause balance issues, and strain your muscles and ligaments.

Be aware of how your legs and feet feel during and after you wear your boots. Do you:

  • Walk differently?
  • Feel a “pushing and pulling” sensation in your knee with each step?
  • Trip, slip, or fall more often?
  • Experience leg and joint pain at night when you’re trying to sleep?
  • Experience pain in your hip, knees, or back after walking in boots, especially after walking over uneven terrain?
  • Have sore or tired muscles after walking in your boots?

Over time, heavy boots can stretch and pull your ligaments causing tendonitis, the painful inflammation of the tendon or the tendon sheath.

If you experience any of the symptoms above after wearing boots, they may be too heavy.

Fit is key to comfort and health

Whether you’re looking for boots to wear outside in winter, hike in fall or you’re required to wear safety boots on the job, choosing the right boot will make a difference.

Gone are the days when we had to “break-in” our shoes for comfort. The use of modern materials and technological design removes the need to soften leather uppers or relax the soles.

Today’s footwear should feel good as soon as we put it on our feet.

Things to consider when choosing new boots.

Arch support. Choosing the right arch support can prevent symptoms of plantar fasciitis, provide a solid foundation for each step, and support your leg health.

Heel height. Higher heels tilt your hips forward, straining your knees, hips, and lower back.

Insulation and breathability. Keeping your feet at a comfortable temperature is important for foot health. Your boots should keep the cold out while wicking moisture away from your feet.

Tread. Do you walk on uneven surfaces? Do you need a non-slip tread for walking on water or ice? Does your job require you to work in areas where oil or other liquids are on the floor? If you work in a special environment, ask a knowledgeable salesperson which type of tread would work best for you.

Reinforced steel toe. Does your job require you to wear steel-toe shoes? If so, make sure the toe box is large enough for comfort and allows your foot to bend in the right places. The reinforced area should not pinch or cause discomfort.

Cushioning. The inside of the shoe is as important as the outside. The inside should cushion your foot as your foot strikes the ground. It should provide solid contact without pain.

For the best fit, try on boots at the end of the day.

Your feet retain more water and expand in the afternoon and evening. Wear your work socks or the thickest socks you will wear with your boots.

If you need a lighter boot, try swapping leather uppers for synthetic leather or a weatherproof mesh.

Many shoe stores allow you to test boots or shoes by wearing them for a day or two inside your home. Ask the salesperson about the policy and then take your new boots home for a short trial to test their weight.

Improper fit can cause tired legs or painful blisters, calluses, and bunions.

Blisters occur when your boot rubs against your skin. As the top layer of skin separates and tries to protect itself, a fluid-filled bubble develops. If the friction continues, the bubble pops creating a painful open sore, which can act as the gateway to infection. Blisters form when boots are too loose in the heel or too tight in other areas.

Corns and calluses form in response to constant friction and pressure. If your boot caused a blister and you continue wearing it, your body will toughen its defense in that area and create corns or calluses, which sometimes lead to infection.

Bunions are painful bony growths that develop slowly over time on the outside of the big toe joint. They can occur when the toe box of the boot is too narrow or too tight. Toe boxes that are too small may also result in numbness and the development of Morton’s neuroma.

Take care to prevent injuries.

Whether you wear boots for work or pleasure, make sure your boot fits your foot properly. Since all boots add some weight to your foot, be mindful of any aches or pains you feel in your feet, ankles, or legs.

If you experience foot, ankle, or leg pain try changing your footwear for a while. If the pain persists longer than two weeks, make an appointment with an orthopedic specialist.