Few women need convincing that when they wear stilettos they are paying a price for style. It makes intuitive sense that anything that uncomfortable to wear must be perfectly capable of doing lasting damage to the wearer. Accordingly, some women chose to “ration” the time they spend in high heels, take opportunities to rest and massage their feet, and make sure that for the rest of the time they wear flatter, more comfortable footwear.
While your feet would probably like you to avoid heels over 2 inches high completely, this is not a bad strategy. But it has a flaw. You see the fact that a shoe is flat and “comfortable” is no guarantee that it’s a “healthy” shoe. In fact, some of the flattest and most comfortable shoes you can buy are up there with the 4- inch stiletto when it comes to torturing the feet, as a recent study by Refinery29 revealed.
A high heel places the wearer’s weight on the ball of the foot, impeding blood flow and subjecting the connective tissues of the foot to stresses it was not evolved to endure. As well as local discomfort in the foot, this leads to pain on the outside of the knee.
By contrast, a totally flat shoe can offer little support, with the absence of good arch support potentially causing knee pain in susceptible foot types.
Because stilettos are the cartoon baddies in the footwear stakes, we tend to overlook the lesser crimes of poor toe box shape, leading to crowding of the toes, poor toe box articulation (it should bend up to allow the natural flexure of the toes) and poor arch support (with potential pathological outcomes too numerous to mention here).
Generally speaking a “good” shoe should have a heel of about one inch. It should have good arch support, but be flexible at the toe box, which should be correctly shaped for the wearer’s toes. It should have a sole thick enough to absorb shock and provide stability to the gait. Some of the most comfortable footwear styles fail these criteria – shape is the key, I’m afraid, not comfort.
So here’s an informative guide to terrible footwear that isn’t equipped with a stiletto heel:
Known to our British cousins as flip-flops, these are the most beguilingly simple form of footwear you can buy. Just about everything is wrong with them. Not only do they lack heel elevation and arch support, but in addition the wearer has to grip the sole with each step with the toes, leading to issues like hammer toe. As a compromise to the Australian climate there are thongs available now that have a higher heel and built in arch support, such as “Archies”.
These very comfortable shoes lack arch support, and the sole gives neither shock absorption nor stability. Typically, the toe box tends to crowd the toes, rubbing the bones together and potentially causing chronic injury. Those with flatter feet are at risk of stress fractures and neuromas.
Look, for knocking about in, practically any trainer on the market is preferable to a 5 inch heel. But that’s a low bar to clear, and in terms of the athletic pursuits for which they are marketed, the cheaper “knock- offs” are a bit of a nightmare. They tend to be constructed so as to look like the leading brands, but without the underlying engineering that makes all that foam rubber work as intended. A particular problem is that those big, spongy soles that feel so comfy actually allow the foot to move laterally and to rotate, risking ankle sprains.
These might look like rather sturdy, sensible shoes. In fact, the absence of ankle support and the need to curl the toes to retain the shoe place them just about on a par with thongs. Mules with heels? That much worse!
Just the fact that they are retained by ankle straps puts them way ahead of thongs, and there are sandals on the market that feature arch support and a sensible 1 ½ inch heel. But most brands lack these features – essential to the long term health of your feet.
Heels lower than 2 inches
In theory, a 2 inch stiletto provides better foot posture than a ballet flat, particularly for those with flatter feet. But it’s still a woefully unstable device, and those with high arches will tend to roll their ankles, increasing the risk of sprain and twisting.
Heels over 2 inches, chunky style
These get a mention because unlike stilettos they do at least offer a little lateral stability. All the other problems with a high heel remain, though.
Chunky heels, lower than 2 inches
At 2 inches, you’re still placing unwelcome stress on the toes and ball of your foot. But take that down to about 1 inch, and with some arch support and a well-shaped toe box you may just have a pretty good shoe.
So now that you’ve read this rogues’ gallery of footwear, we hope it helps you make footwear choices that your feet will be thankful for!
Of course, it should be noted that this is a generalised view regarding foot wear and not definitive. Some foot types require different features in the shoe than others.
For further information or advice on footwear that is good for your feet, contact the professionals at Cannington Podiatry today for professional assistance.