All of us have a variety of shoes at home. We have walking shoes, sandals, dress shoes and boots. Not only do the shoes that we have vary due to occasion, but also throughout the year our needs change. In the summer, we might want something to slip on quickly and go out and we have shoes for walking and enjoying the outdoors. When fall rolls around we start transitioning into boots to keep our feet warm and in winter we may even need to get into some heavy duty, warm and waterproof boots. As the snow melts and the rain starts to fall, we don’t need quite as much warmth from our boots as we do protection from the rain. Unfortunately, the same rain boots that are best for the occasional puddles we can’t avoid are not always great for our feet.
What are the factors that account for how ‘good’ or ‘bad’ a rain boot is for our feet?
- Support: Generally, rainboots have no support for our feet. They are flat on the bottom and typically made out of a flexible material. This means that we will see many people coming in to see us for pain in their arches and ankles due to tendinitis. When you wear boots chronically during the rainy months, your feet get fatigued and the muscles and tendons have to work harder to stabilize you if you are in a flat and flexible boot.
- The fit: Most rain boots (because they don’t have zippers) are very loose around the ankle and leg to allow you to get your foot into them. This means that once your foot is in place in a rainboot, there is usually a lot of floppy material around the ankle and leg. This can cause instability through the ankle. Additionally, the rubbery material tends to bend with walking and motion which can lead to irritation in the shin where the bend is most consistently present. When walking in such a loose boot, we also find that the risk for tendinitis is increased due to the need for your foot to curl its toes in attempts of keeping the boots on and under your foot in the correct position. Because the boot is not well secured to your foot and ankle, you have to work harder than just walking to keep your foot from sliding around or out of the boot.
- The waterproofing: So, these boots give us confidence that if we are out in the rain we will be well protected. Some boots out there will provide some reasonable protection from the rain, but most boots do not have any insulation to protect us against the cold that comes along with rain here in the Midwest. Also, as mentioned in the above bullet point, these boots by themselves are loose around the leg. If there is a torrential downpour, you will find that you need some additional filler around the leg to keep water from falling into the boot and turning it into a bigger problem. Some rainboots loose the ability to keep our feet dry if they get worn out or if the sole cracks allowing water in.
- Traction: It’s true, the roads are slippery when wet. So if your feet are nice and dry in your boots but you slip and fall into a puddle, overall you will still end up wet. Cheaper boots may not have much tread on the sole to help you grip the pavement.
So, what can we do? We want dry feet, but we don’t want to compromise on support or cause a new foot problem by trying to keep our foot in the boot. As with anything, some rainboots are constructed better than others. In addition, we can do things to help our boots to do more for our feet.
- Support: An arch insert. At our office, we make custom orthotics frequently for many conditions. If you have or have been told you need custom orthotics, these can often be placed in the rainboots. This helps provide support that the boot lacks. In addition, they keep your foot from sliding within the boot.
- The Fit: Be mindful of the style of rainboots you choose and which brand. The closest fit for the best support will come from rainboots that are above the ankle, but not up towards the knee. LL Bean makes this type of waterproof rainboot and they even have laces to adjust the ankle support and ensure that the boots aren’t loose or causing you to compensate to keep your boots on your feet. Being able to slide boots on easily can come from plenty of room in the calf (like in most typical Hunter boots), but it can also come from the addition of a section of elastic along one or two sides of the ankle portion of the boot. Sperry also has styles that allow for better support. The bottom line here is that a large, chunky, tall boot isn’t necessarily the best thing for your feet – even if it is Hunter and everyone has them. Everlane, Native and Sam Edelman are some other brands to try.
- Waterproof: Again, cheaper boots may have adhesives holding them together that can dry up and cause water to have an easy access in. Well constructed rain boots often cost more, but for good reason. Be sure the invest well and do your research when buying rainboots.
- Traction: Traction is better in the more pricey boots, generally speaking. Sperry, LL Bean, Hunter and Everlane boots appear to have more tread which means more grip and less slipping out in that wet weather.
As with any shoe, it is important to be realistic of your expectations for boots. When looking for rain boots to wear, the goals should include that the boot fit well, provide adequate support, be quality waterproofed and provide traction to reduce slipping when outside. If it is pouring dogs and cats outside, you may want to wear your rainboots to do just what you MUST, but overall it may be best to put off a full day of errands unless you have high quality rainboots. Thankfully, our rainy season here in the Midwest doesn’t linger for much of the year (as some other weather does), but the smarter we are with our boots during spring, the less likely we will have issues with being active in the beautiful summer that follows. If you do have pain in your feet, no matter the cause, call our office for an evaluation today!