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When you're a surgically trained podiatrist, the question,"What shoes should I buy?" comes up fairly often—especially after a pandemic during which everyone's sky high heels have been relegated to the backs of their closets.. And if you're Marion Parke, this question leads you on a train of thought that results in a shoe brand beloved by Dr. Jill Biden, Sara Bareilles, and Lupita Nyong'o.
Back when Parke was in school, she realized that patients who wore high heels suffered the same symptoms as those with high arches (foot and ankle instability, tight calf muscles, and claw toes). And during her three-year residency, patients would bring in bags and bags of their shoes for her to examine.
The way that Parke sees it, one way to determine your shoes level of comfort based on its construction is to look at the "bend," aka where the shoe bends when you fold the toe to the heel. "A supportive shoe will only bend at the widest part of the toe box. If a shoe bends through the arch or you can wring it out like a towel, then it's too flexible for all day wear and if you do wear it for an extended time then you'll likely experience foot soreness and fatigue," says Parke.
But before you wander off to go try the bend test, but be sure to check out the insole of your shoes as well. Though cushioning is often the first thing we think of for comfort, it is not always a solution. When used in dress shoes, extra cushioning actually has the opposite effect, causing slippage and "micro motions" that lead to soreness and fatigue over time. Parke's focus is on the insole. She sculpts all of her insoles to fit the curves and contours of the foot, without adding extra cushioning.
"This contouring increases the surface area contact between the plantar aspect of the foot and the shoe, so that weight and forces are more evenly distributed rather than focused on the forefoot and heel," she says. Extra material is added on the outside of the sole to ensure the foot has a stable and straight positioning in the shoes. But beyond those measures for comfort, Parke's materials for the insole are medical grade cushioning that are often used for prosthetics, as they have similar properties to our natural tissue and they mold to the foot over time.
After years as a podiatrist and high-heel wearer, Parke has solved the conundrum of wanting to wear heels and walk comfortably as well. In other words: it's possible pretend to be Carrie Bradshaw wearing strappy stilettos all day, and transition into an evening gathering with no problem. They are that comfortable.
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