What are Specialty Shoes?

Sports shoes like running shoes and basketball shoes are regarded as some of the most comfortable types of footwear that people can wear today. However, they wouldn’t be able to provide comfort and support for people that have injuries and debilitating diseases or disorders. People with special needs would need to wear specialty shoes that offer the best support and cushioning while also allowing disorders and diseases on the feet to heal faster. Here are the things you need to know about specialty shoes and why you may need them.

What are Specialty Shoes?

white specialty shoes

Specialty shoes are a wide category of footwear that is designed to cater to people with injuries, diseases, disorders, and other conditions that require special needs. Specialty shoes would usually have different features that can help people with special needs walk better, like having extra padding on the midfoot for arch support and having straps that can make it easier for a person to wear the shoes.

What are the Benefits of Specialty Shoes?

Wearing specialty shoes can have many benefits for the wearers, especially if they are dealing with a condition or disorder that prevents them from walking normally using regular shoes. Read below to learn more about the benefits of wearing specialty shoes.

Arch Support

orthopedic insole with arch support

People with plantar fasciitis, which is a disorder that afflicts severe pain in the plantar fascia or the connective tissue that supports the feet’s arches, will greatly benefit from wearing specialty shoes. A lot of specialty shoes provide ample arch support so that the plantar fascia won’t be strained. 

A problem that many sports shoes have is their lack of arch support, as the insoles that are used on those shoes are relatively flat and don’t have enough cushioning for the arches, which are slightly elevated compared to the heels and the toes. With specialty shoes, there will be a bump in the middle of the insoles that serve as cushioning and support for the arches.

Reduced Foot Pain

Foot pain can be caused by numerous factors, and some of them are due to underlying diseases or disorders on the feet, legs, or other parts of the body. Specialty shoes are designed to reduce the pain that people with injuries and special needs feel whenever they are standing or walking. Specialty shoes typically have special insoles that provide more support, cushioning or protection for the feet.

Improved Blood Flow

orthopedic shoes for treating varicose veins

If you are a person that suffers from chronic foot cramps, numbness, and soreness, then wearing specialty shoes can help in reducing the chances of you getting those pains and aches that just won’t go away. Specialty shoes have a wide toe box and a flexible upper that allows your feet to move freely, thus promoting good blood flow on the feet.

A lot of sports shoes available today are often too narrow or too constricting for the feet, and because of how tight they fit, they would often compromise the feet’s blood circulation. With specialty shoes, the blood vessels in your feet and legs would function normally, and normal blood flow can then help in reducing soreness, inflammation, or pain caused by injuries, disorders, or diseases.

Corrective Abilities

Specialty shoes are also designed to correct any flaws on your feet that are caused by wearing ill-fitting shoes. For example, if you have bunions, which are a deformity on the joints of the big toe or smallest toe, then there is a high chance that the deformity is caused by wearing shoes that have a narrow toe box or are just too tight for your feet.

So, to prevent the bunions from worsening, you should wear specialty shoes that have a much wider toe box, thus stopping your toes from bunching up together and causing strain on the joints. The same corrective abilities of specialty shoes can also be used for other foot deformities and disorders, like plantar fasciitis and flatfoot syndrome.

Types of Specialty Shoes

There are different types of specialty shoes that have distinct features and benefits. Take a look at the description for each type of specialty shoe below.

Orthopedic Shoes

orthopedic shoes with straps

The most popular and common type of specialty shoe is the orthopedic shoe. These shoes are specifically worn by people that are experiencing different kinds of foot problems, like bunions, ingrown toenails, plantar fasciitis, and others. In addition, orthopedic shoes can also help alleviate pain in the legs, ankles, and back.

Whenever we wear sports shoes and other types of footwear that are too narrow or constricting for the feet, our legs, hips, and back would often struggle to keep our natural walking or running stride, as our feet are restricted or constricted from doing their natural movement. 

By wearing orthopedic shoes, you will allow your feet to have more freedom of movement, similar to how you walk barefoot. However, orthopedic shoes will still give your foot comfort and protection like regular sports shoes, but with extra support for the arches, heels, and toes of your feet.

Custom Orthopedic Shoes

customizing orthopedic insoles

While there are orthopedic shoes that are readily available for you to try and buy in stores, there are also custom-made orthopedic shoes that are created to fit your feet better compared to the ready-made ones. Custom orthopedic shoes will have specific features that are tailored to your needs. For example, if you have high arches, the custom orthopedic shoes will have a much higher bump on the midfoot section of the insoles so that they can cushion the high arches better.

The downside to custom-made orthopedic shoes is that they can be quite expensive, so you may need to save plenty of money if you want to have a pair. A pair of custom orthopedic shoes can cost between $200 to $500, which is about twice or thrice the price of regular orthopedic shoes. But, if the normal or ready-made orthopedic shoes don’t really provide the comfort, support, and protection you need for your feet, then you may have to spend money on custom orthopedic shoes.

Diabetic Shoes

shoes with apples and a glucometer for measuring blood sugar level

People with diabetes often suffer from diabetic neuropathy, which occurs when there is damage to the nerves caused by numerous symptoms of diabetes. The damaged nerves can be found in different parts of the body, which includes the legs and the feet. When the nerves on the legs and feet are severely damaged, you will lose sensation in those body parts, and this could lead to loss of balance and movement. [1]

In order to prevent people with diabetes from worsening the damaged nerves on their legs and feet, they should wear a pair of diabetes shoes, which is a type of specialty shoes that is made to promote good blood flow on the vessels that are essential in the healing process of damaged nerves, wounds, and injuries. 

In addition, diabetic shoes are also soft, breathable, and flexible enough to prevent skin breakdowns or pressure ulcers, which are wounds that occur due to pressure and friction. Skin breakdowns can be dangerous for diabetics, as wounds tend to heal much slower for them. So, wearing diabetic shoes can help reduce the risks of skin breakdowns.

Tips for Choosing Specialty Shoes

row of orthopedic shoes in a store

Because of so many specialty shoes, orthopedic shoes, and diabetic shoes that are available today, it can often be very difficult for people to know which ones are suitable for them and which ones are actually better in terms of features. If you are currently deciding which pair of specialty shoes to buy, here are some tips that we can provide so that you will pick the best and most suitable for you.

Choosing the Correct Size

The number one priority when it comes to picking specialty shoes is their size. If you have worn countless shoes for years, then you should already know your true shoe size. However, it is important to keep in mind that the fit of orthopedic shoes is different from your normal sports shoes or leather shoes, as they are supposed to be a little roomier so that your feet and toes will be much freer to move. 

However, orthopedic shoes shouldn’t feel loose on your feet, or else you will have a difficult time walking. Your true shoe size should be fine when it comes to orthopedic shoes, but it is better if you can try different sizes in physical stores.

Pick a Comfortable Pair

Of course, specialty shoes should not only make your feet feel supported and protected, but they need to feel comfortable as well. There are certain specialty shoes that feature memory foam insoles, which are considered to be one of the most comfortable types of insoles on the market.

Memory foam molds to the shape of your feet’s soles, so they can offer the best support and comfort for the arches, as well as the heels and toes. Memory foam insoles are suitable for people with diabetes, as the insoles are soft enough to prevent pressure ulcers or skin breakdowns on the soles.

Know If They Offer Ample Arch Support

By trying specialty shoes in physical stores, you will also be able to know if the shoes you will try offer ample arch support. This is particularly important for people that have high-arched feet, as there are some specialty shoes that don’t really give the arch support needed for high arches. Besides standing while wearing the specialty shoes, you should also try walking on them so that you will see if the arch support is still there even if you are moving.

Read Information About Different Specialty Shoes

Sometimes, you won’t be able to know about certain features of specialty shoes in physical stores, so you may need some time to do some research online. You can check out popular specialty shoes online and then read more about them so that you will know if they have specific features that can be useful or helpful for you. Researching is basically beneficial if you also want to have a faster time choosing a pair of specialty shoes, as you will already know what you want and need in the shoes you are planning to buy.

Check for Reviews Online

reading online reviews

Besides researching for info or details on specific specialty shoes, you may also want to check for reviews of those shoes online. Reviews are available on shoe review sites, forums, blogs, and even on online stores where you can buy specialty shoes. 

These reviews will give you everything you need to know about different specialty shoes, from their features and fit, to their strengths and weaknesses. So, reviews will also save you a lot of time when it comes to choosing specialty shoes, as you will already have an idea of which ones have pros that outweigh their cons before you actually try them on in physical stores.

If you are suffering from plantar fasciitis, bunions, arthritis, diabetic neuropathy, and other diseases or disorders that can affect your legs and feet, wearing specialty shoes may help alleviate the pain and discomfort that are associated with the said illnesses. Try different specialty shoes if you can and see if they are truly effective in giving comfort, support, and protection for the feet.


[1] WebMD Editorial Contributors. (2021, May 14). What is Diabetic Neuropathy? WebMD. Retrieved February 3, 2023, from https://www.webmd.com/diabetes/diabetes-neuropathy