WHAT ARE COMMON FOOT AILMENTS PEOPLE SUFFER FROM WHEN DRIVING?
Drivers are more likely to suffer from plantar fasciitis and achilles tendonitis of the right foot because of repetitive plantar flexion (downward motion) of the foot when pressing the gas and brake pedals. This condition is particularly common in people who have a lack of flexibility of the calf muscles. Another common ailment that people suffer from when driving includes swelling of the feet and ankles particularly the left foot and leg which is less active. Driving for prolonged periods of time increases fluid retention in the lower extremities as gravity will simply overpower the ability of our venous system to send blood back to our heart. Walking helps our calf muscles compress the blood in the veins of our feet back to our heart. However, when we drive for prolonged periods of time our calf muscles, particularly the left calf which is less active when we drive will not compress the veins in our legs which then leads to accumulation and retention of fluid in the foot and leg which may become not only painful but also dangerous in some cases. Lack of circulation can lead to the formation of a blood clot known as a deep vein thrombosis (DVT). Although this condition is not common in the average population it is dangerous because the clot can travel to your heart or lungs and may be fatal.
WHAT SHOULD PEOPLE LOOK FOR IN A DRIVING SHOE?
When driving, it is important to select shoes that are appropriately sized and comfortable, supportive, and shock absorbent, like a sneaker. It’s important to look for a comfortable sneaker with a wide toe box to accommodate swelling that will occur with prolonged driving. Select a shoe that is wide enough to accommodate your toes; make sure there is enough room to slightly wiggle your toes. If you can’t move your toes at all then the shoes are too tight and will eventually become painful. In order to determine whether the forefront is wide enough, I suggest that you trace your foot onto a piece of paper at the end of the day when your feet are most swollen. Then place the shoe over the tracing of the foot. If the tracing of the foot is external to the periphery of the shoe then you know that your shoes are too narrow. I recommend compression socks for people that suffer from swelling of the feet and legs with prolonged driving to help minimize fluid retention of the lower extremities. It’s also important to pick a shoe that has a comfortably arched footbed to help support the midfoot and prevent excessive pronation (collapsing of the arch) which can irritate the plantar fascia leading to pain and discomfort.
WHAT SPECIFIC BRANDS OR SHOE MODELS WOULD YOU RECOMMEND?
In regards to specific brands or shoe models I would recommend either New Balance, Saucony, Asics, or Brooks walking or running shoes. These brands offer a wide array of models that are comfortable, supportive, and shock absorbent more so than the other brands such as Reebok or Nike. These brands are known to have a wider toe box which will accommodate the swelling that occurs with prolonged driving. These brands offer shoes that are lightweight and very padded with extra cushion making them durable for long term use. The advantage of these shoes are that they are designed for all arch-types and are the most comfortable shoes to wear. These shoes provide great stability as they are designed to include a comfortable arched footbed which helps minimize discomfort of the arch commonly associated with driving.
SHOULD DIFFERENT TYPES OF DRIVERS LOOK FOR DIFFERENT SHOES?
I don't think that different types of drivers should necessarily look for different shoes. It’s irrelevant whether you drive for short periods of time or long periods. What's important is that your feet are comfortable at ALL times when driving. You need to look for shoes that have the qualities mentioned above and you need to make sure that that you purchase your shoes at the end of the day when your feet are most swollen. If your shoes are comfortable then, then most likely it will feel comfortable when you drive regardless of how long.
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