If the shoe fits, you know it from the moment you put it on, says Dr. Suzanne M. Levine, a Manhattan practicing podiatric surgeon.
``Breaking in shoes is absurd. It's not normal for feet to hurt. All it takes is the right pair of shoes and a little time and effort to let your feet let you feel good.'Levine spoke during the recent Men's Fashion Association Spring 90 previews.
To get the right fit, try on shoes the middle of the afternoon before foot puffiness from fluid builds to its nighttime peak, she says. ``You know how you have trouble getting your shoes back on after you slip them off under the table? Fluid is the reason.'
With feet traveling an average of 100,000 miles in a lifetime, getting a good fit is essential, says Levine, who wrote ``My Feet Are Killing Me!' (Ballentine Books, 1987).
She is a member of the teaching staff at New York College of Podiatric Medicine and a consultant for the United States Tennis Association. She also has appeared on such television programs as ``The Oprah Winfrey Show,' ``Sonya Live in LA' and ``Hour Magazine.'
She participated in research for Naturalizer Shoe's new NaturalSport TownWalker pump. As a consultant for Naturalizer, she also wrote a free booklet on foot care, ``When My Feet Hurt, I Can't Think.'
Levine is pleased with the revolution in the shoe industry. ``Consumers can now find pumps built with athletic-shoe technology that allows them to look good while giving their feet the cushioning and support they need.'
She adds: ``The nerve endings in our toes and the soles of our feet are some of the most sensitive in the entire body. When they're screaming for relief, we feel it all over. We find ourselves grouchy, tired and less productive.'
She says by age 25 women start losing the cushiony fat under the ball of the feet. That can result in a burning sensation in the area.
Americans spend more than $200 million in over-the-counter remedies for foot ailments each year, says Levine. ``Some of these problems are hereditary, others result when we make unreasonable demands of our feet. But most often the culprit is what we put on our feet.'
She says an hour of standing in uncomfortable shoes can cause your feet more pain than a full day of walking in comfortable shoes.
When trying on shoes, she says, make sure the ball of the foot rests on the widest part of the shoe and the heel fits snugly.
``Your foot shouldn't move around at all. Ask for a shoe made on a 'combination last.' Check the heel for sturdiness and make sure you can rest your weight comfortably on it. The heel absorbs 25 percent of your body weight.'
You should be able to wiggle your toes in the toe box. ``Make sure there's a half inch of space between your longest toe and the tip of the shoe. Check the fit both sitting down and walking around on a hard, smooth surface.'
Levine is not against high heels. ``You can find fashionable high heel shoes that are just as comfortable as some of the flat shoes on the market. If you opt for a higher heel, look for sturdy construction and proper support and cushioning. Shop around and make sure the shoes fit correctly before you buy.'
If you get home with new shoes that aren't comfortable, take them back, she says.
For a copy of ``When My Feet Hurt, I Can't Think,' send a self-addressed, stamped No. 10 envelope to NaturalSport, 847 W. Jackson, Chicago, Ill. 60607.