Those Flats Weren't Made For Walking
By Rick A. Raimondo, MD, FAAOS, AOFAS, Virtua Orthopedic Surgeon and Foot and Ankle Specialist
Any woman who has put in time wearing high heels or stilettos can tell you about pain akin to low-level torture. But, when you decide to ditch your heels and opt for fashionable flats instead, are you really doing your feet a favor? Perhaps not.
Wearing high heels can cause bunions, hammer toes, neuromas, metatarsalgia (pain under the balls of your feet), and stress fractures. But wearing flat-soled shoes like ballet flats, flip-flops and even Ugg boots brings its own set of issues. Shoes with a flat sole often lack arch support and proper cushioning. If you wear them for long periods of time, it can cause arch pain and fatigue, plantar fasciitis, heel pain, tendonitis, and other problems.
The effects of wearing high heels versus flat shoes are related to the position of the foot. High heels tend to put greater pressure on the toes and forefoot area. Of course, the higher the heel, the worse this problem can be. Flats tend to cause more stress on the heel and forefoot area, especially when they lack arch support and a thick cushioned sole.
Here are some recommendations for picking shoes that save your “soles”:
- Despite their comfort and ease, save flip-flops for the beach, pool, or pedicure.
- Look for flats that are roomy—not tight, have arch support and a thick cushioned outer sole. They should be comfortable right away.
- Add insoles for support and cushioning. Many insoles don’t fit into fashionable shoes, but “dress orthotic” insoles are manufactured to fit a sleeker shoe. A well-equipped shoe store may carry these or they can be ordered online.
- Look for flats with a low wedge, as they give the foot a lift away from the hard ground.
- Choose shoes with padding on the insole to protect the sole of your foot. Shoes made of soft leather or a supple canvas—rather than a rigid hard material—help your feet breathe and move with flexibility.
- Alternate your shoes. Wear different styles and heel heights so that your foot has room to breathe and adjust.
- Always make sure you buy the right shoe for your foot shape and size, and be sure to consider any foot ailments that you may have.
Updated June 6, 2016