The 6 Pairs of Shoes Hurting Your Feet—And How to Fix Them
What do your shoe choices say about your feet? Maybe not right now, but perhaps in the future—after a long day of wearing ill-fitting sneakers, or a lifetime of cramming your toes into pointed high heels? Unfortunately, most people are making at least one or two big mistakes when it comes to shoes, whether that’s the style, the fit, or even how often they wear them. Are you one of them? Read on to find out.
High HeelsIt’s not a secret that high heels are bad for feet. But why? For starters, they make you less stable and significantly increase the risk of fall-related injuries, such as ankle sprains. Second, because most shoes of this design end up scrunching your toes together in a pointy toe box and throwing all your weight on the front of your feet, they are linked with higher rates of toe deformities like bunions and hammertoes. But that’s not all. Because high heels alter the biomechanics of your entire body as you stand and walk, they can cause pain all over: arch pain, calf pain, knee pain, lower back pain … you get the idea. Extended high heel use can even damage blood vessels in feet and weaken ligaments that support your lower legs. What to do instead: Avoid wearing them as much as possible! If you need a pair or two for special occasions, remember that the higher and narrower the heel, the worse the shoes probably are for your feet. Stick to 2” of heel height at the absolute max, with a nice chunky width to help with weight distribution. Even these should only be worn sparingly.
Ballet FlatsIf you thought the correct answer to high heels was to go in the complete opposite direction … think again. Ballet flats offer no support for the arch whatsoever and are especially linked with various forms of heel pain, such as plantar fasciitis. The lack of shock absorption can also lead to neuromas in the balls of the feet, and that force can transfer up the skeletal system to affect the legs, knees, and back. What to do instead: Aside from switching to a pair of shoes with more built-in cushioning and support, you mean? Ballet flats often make great candidates for a pair of orthotics. When matched with the right pair of insoles, you can get the style you love from your flats while giving your feet the support they need. Just make sure you check with us before you pick up a pair—and bring your shoes along!
Flip FlopsFlip flops are, of course, the casual summer footwear of choice for many people—especially on days when the mercury pushes above 90 degrees. Unfortunately, flip flops are also a poor choice for your foot health. Most styles offer virtually no support for your arch or shock absorption for your heels. And with only one lonely strap holding the sandal to your feet, painful friction blisters are common. Flip flops also force you to alter your gait in subtle ways just to keep them from flipping right off your feet—shorter strides, scrunched toes, turned in ankles, etc. This can stretch and inflame the plantar fascia, leading to acute heel pain. But it also can contribute to long-term problems with your ankles, calves, and hips, or even hammertoes. There’s also the matter of skin protection. Many people who wear flip flops all day don’t bother to use sunscreen on the exposed tops of their feet. That can lead to some painful burns and increase your risk of skin cancer. What to do instead: If you want to do some walking in open-toed shoes, try to find a good, comfortable pair of sandals with proper arch support and adjustable straps—particularly around the back of the ankle. If you do want to keep around a pair of flip flops, keep their use to a minimum. They’re probably fine for lazing around the house, or a trip to the beach. But you don’t want to walk around in them all day.
That One Beat Up Pair of Sneakers You Use for Every SportIt’s fairly common these days for people to wear a pair of athletic sneakers as their everyday casual shoes. And truthfully, a comfortable pair of walking shoes or cross-trainers is a fine choice for most people. The problem occurs when you try to re-use the same generic pair of athletic shoes for any and all athletic endeavors—running, playing tennis, playing basketball, aerobics, etc. The truth is, different sports place different demands on feet. Sport-specific shoes cater to those requirements, offering the optimal features for safety and performance. A running shoe, for example, is designed for efficient heel-to-toe motion, while shoes for other sports made need more protective bulk, or more ankle protection for side-to-side movement. What to do instead: Now, we’re not saying you need to go out and buy a brand new pair of tennis shoes if you only play casually a couple of times per summer. But those who do play or train in a specific sport, or have a specific exercise plan, should have a sport-specific pair of shoes for those activities.
The Pair You Wear Every. Single. Day.No matter how much you love your favorite pair of shoes, you really shouldn’t be wearing them every day. Why? Well, have you ever smelled your own foot at the end of a long day? Feet sweat a lot—especially since the soles don’t have their own oil glands. Consequently, the inside of shoes can get damp and dank. This makes them the perfect breeding ground for all kinds of unwelcome microorganisms, including the kinds that can cause warts, athlete’s foot, and even fungal toenails. What to do instead: You don’t have to fill your closet with dozens of options—all we ask is that you have 2-3 pairs of everyday shoes that you can rotate. This gives each pair at least one full day (plus another night) to dry out after you use them. If you have struggled with issues like athlete’s foot in the past, you might consider using an antifungal spray or powder in your shoes as well.
That Pair That’s Totally Perfect … Except That It’s the Wrong SizeMaybe you can relate here. You found the perfect pair at the store. The shoes are totally cute / manly / whatever it is you’re looking for. You like the style and the colors, after rejecting just about every other pair in the entire store. And they’re supposed to be comfy and supportive for your feet. Except there’s just one problem. They don’t quite have your size. A distressing percentage of men and women wear shoes that are the wrong size for their feet. A lot of shoes are too small, especially among kids (who quickly outgrow their old pairs), and others are too big. Width matters, too, and unfortunately many shoe stores don’t carry much of a selection of different widths within a particular shoe model. So people with especially wide or narrow feet often end up taking “closest available.” Unfortunately, wearing shoes that don’t fit can lead to a lot of problems. A poor fit often means a lot of uncomfortable pressure and friction hotspots all over your feet. Aches, cramps, blisters, corns, calluses, toe deformities … again, you get the idea. What to do instead: Don’t settle for a “close enough” fit! Also, remember these general shoe shopping tips:
- Always measure your feet before you buy. Yes, even if you’re an adult and you’ve had the same size for decades. Feet do change shape over time.
- Shop late in the day, when your feet are likely a little bit swollen. It means your shoes will still fit your feet when they are swollen.
- Wear the same type of socks you plan to wear with the shoes. This can influence the tightness of the fit!