What Is the Ideal Shoe Proportion?

It is known that footwear comfort is linked to the shape of the footbed of the shoe. However, in spite of this being important, there are no specific guidelines that recommend uniform shoe footbed making. This study on footbed design of volunteer women showed that for a heel height of 1 inch, the wedge angle of 4 and 5 degrees is most comfortable. For a heel height of 2 inches, the angle should be 10 and 11 degrees and for a-3 inch heel, it should be 16 and 18 degrees. The authors suggest that these findings “can be used to design footwear with enhanced comfort.”

Shoes form an integral part of a person’s ability to maintain a good posture. This area has also been a topic for investigation in many studies because a bad posture is associated with many problems. Foot posture is especially important because it bears the weight of the whole body and the foot contains nearly one quarter of the bones of the whole body. It is known that good shoes maintain the normal foot posture to a large extent to provide adequate comfort to the wearer. It is also seen that most of the shoe lasts that are used to make the footbeds of the shoes focus primarily on making the back part of the shoe to provide the comfort. The front part is left to meet cosmetic requirements. The height of the heel also alters the comfort of a shoe. In spite of these important considerations in shoemaking, there are no uniform recommendations regarding the making of the footbeds. This study attempts to highlight the importance of good footbed design, in relation to the load-bearing heel part of a shoe.

* For the study, a total of 32 healthy women, who were used to wearing high heels, were selected. These women had no specific foot problems or deformities of the foot.
* For each of the women, specific measurements like height of the heel, length of the seat of the heel and also the angle of inclination of the heel were assessed.
* All women were also assessed for foot pressure and were given questionnaires to assess their sense of comfort or discomfort with the footwear.

Results/Key findings
* The results of the study showed that for a heel height of 1 inch, women need a footwear wedge angle of 4 and 5 degrees.
* Similarly, for a heel height of 2 inches, women require a wedge angle of 10 and 11 degrees and for a heel height of 3 inches they need an angle of 16 and 18 inches.
* The results also showed that 80 percent of the participants felt change in the comfort of the shoes, depending on the area on which the foot stays in contact with the shoe; maximum foot pressure and total amount of pressure is exerted by the front part of the foot. It was also noted that the angle of the foot wedge and the length of the heel seat are important factors that determine the shoe wearer’s comfort.

Next steps/Shortcomings
The authors agree that this study looked only at foot comfort while standing. They suggest further studies that examine the footwear comfort with specifically designed shoes, while a person runs or walks. They also admit that other heel heights have not been considered in this study and that further studies are needed in this regard.

This study shows that for a particular heel height, a particular shape of the shoe can provide maximum comfort to the wearer. The important determinants of comfort include length of the heel seat and angle of the heel wedge. Study women also showed preference for shoes on the basis of other factors such as contact area of the foot, foot pressure, and force of the front part of the foot on the shoe. The authors conclude that this study shows the importance of good footbed design and also lays down some recommendations for comfortable footwear. They also suggest that further studies that explore the most comfortable footwear for such foot movement as running and walking are necessary for the maintenance of healthy foot posture and improved wearer comfort.

For More Information:
Footbed Shapes for Enhanced Footwear Comfort
Publication Journal: Ergonomics, May 2009
By Channa Witana; Ravindra Goonetilleke
From the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology, Clear Water Bay, Hong Kong

*FYI Living Lab Reports Are Summaries of the Original Research.

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