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This narrative review explores the ways in which drawing on theories and methods used in sociological work on footwear and identity can contribute to healthcare research with podiatrists and their patients, highlighting recent research in this field, implications for practice and potential areas for future development.
Traditionally, research within Podiatry Services has tended to adopt a quantitative, positivist focus, developing separately from a growing body of sociological work exploring the importance of shoes in constructing identity and self-image. Bringing qualitative research drawing on sociological theory and methods to the clinical encounter has real potential to increase our understanding of patient values, motivations and – crucially – any barriers to adopting ‘healthier’ footwear that they may encounter. Such work can help practitioners to understand why patients may resist making changes to their footwear practices, and help us to devise new ways for practitioners to explore and ultimately break down individual barriers to change (including their own preconceptions as practitioners). This, in turn, may lead to long-term, sustainable changes to footwear practices and improvements in foot health for those with complex health conditions and the wider population.
A recognition of the complex links between shoes and identity is opening up space for discussion of patient resistance to footwear changes, and paving the way for future research in this field beyond the temporary ‘moment’ of the clinical encounter.
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