The worst shoes for your feet are actually really surprising

6 min read
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We often consider heels to be the worst shoes for our feet, after all, how can something that makes our feet hurt SO much be any good for us? But it seems they're not the worst offender.

Stilettos definitely get a bad wrap for being horrible for our feet, but that doesn't mean that a flat shoe is much better. In fact, the flattest of flats, ballet flats (we swear we'll try to stop saying 'flat') actually put more pressure on your feet than you'd expect.

Unlike high heels that put pressure on the balls of your feet, flats put pressure on the heels as there's usually very little arch support in the shoe according to podiatrist, Hillary Brenner, DPM, who spoke with Refinery29

Also speaking with the publication was, Miguel Cunha, DPM, who added, "A heel will lead to stress on the outside of the knee... A flat will lead to stress on the inside of the knee."

He explained that when buying shoes, you should actually be looking at shape over comfort. A wide toe box that bends upwards is recommended as well as a thick one inch heel to "stabilise your stride". It's also recommended that your shoes have a rigid, supportive shape with a cushioned, stable arch area – this means those shoes that totally bend in half are a no go!

Of course this doesn't mean that you should get rid of all your amazing heels or ballet flats, moderation is key!

According to experts, these are the worst to not-so-horrible...

1. A stiletto with a heel higher than two inches

stiletto

If you're going to wear them, only give them two to three hours maximum and take them off to give your feet a break at midday for stretches and a few exercises.

2. Thongs

Thongs

Dr Brenner says "they're the worst" because they lack arch support and force your toes to curl to hold onto the flimsy piece of rubber to keep them on.

3. Ballet flats

Ballet flats

They may seem like the most comfortable pair you've got, but as mentioned above, they can be just as bad as heels. People with flatter feet risk stress fractures when wearing ballet flats as there's no shock absorption for the balls of your feet and the heels. 

4. 'Bad' sneakers

Sneakers

How can sneakers be bad for us?! Well, if a shoe feels really comfortable then it probably doesn't provide much support. So a bad sneaker is one that increases the likelihood of ankle sprains and twists because your heel is able to move too easily from left to right. Yes, these are better than heels, but don't do anything other than walking in these.

5. Mules

Mule

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These look like a comfy shoe, but don't be deceived, these are almost as bad as thongs – especially the high heel variation! Dr Cunha says, "It's worse to have a heel that doesn't support the back of your feet... In addition to the extra weight on the front of your feet, you also have to curl your toes to make sure the shoe doesn't fall off to the side every time you plant your foot down." 

6. Gladiator sandals

Gladiator sandals

IMAGE | PAOLO TOFFANIN/GETTY IMAGES

The many straps on these sandals makes them slightly better than mules and thongs, if you've got a 1.5-inch heel you've got a little more support. Look out for variations that have good arch support to lessen the risk with these shoes. 

7. A stiletto with a heel less than two inches

Stiletto

IMAGE | DRAGONIMAGES

When it comes to these shoes it's the actual heel that's the problem, when you wear a stiletto you're more likely to sprain your ankle. However, if you wear a stiletto with a one inch heel you'll get more support than a ballet flat! If you're flat-footed this is a great option for you, but if you have a high arch you'll be more likely to roll your ankle in any heel.

8. Chunky heel, higher than two inches

Chunky heel

Thanks to the stable, squared-off heel you've got yourself a slightly better shoe than a stiletto! You might not sprain your ankle, but you're still putting pressure on the front of the foot.

9. Chunky heel, lower than two inches

Chunky heels

Even if it's just two inches, your chunky heels will add extra stress to your knees and back, but they're better than a four-inch heel for every day walking. If your heel is around one-inch you may have the perfect shoe as it provides the extra arch support and because of its squared heel you'll avoid rolling your ankle.

10. Wedges

Wedges

The cushion of a wedge shoe makes them one of the best options for your feet with Dr Brenner saying, "If I want to go for height, I almost always go for the wedge... With a wedge, you have a built-in arch support." If you've got some with cork or rubber soles you've got extra shock absorption. 

11. Good sneakers

Sneakers

Good sneakers have ankle support and arch support, you shouldn't be able to twist the shoe and it should support your feet fully from ankle to toe. If you're in the market for a new pair, buy them at the end of the day when your feet are the most swollen. 

BRB throwing out all my shoes that aren't runners...

Written By Marni
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