They say that shoes can make or break an outfit.  Well this is true, and it can even make or break your foot and ankle health!  Most women have a closet full of shoes, ranging from all types and even different sizes!  But knowing how those shoes affect your feet can make a difference in our choices. Often shoes can take a toll on your feet, and it is good to be educated on how bad (or good!) they can be for your feet. 

Ballet Flats - Friend or Foe?

Ballet flats, or flat slip on shoes, are often touted as flexible and therefore comfortable.  Unfortunately, flexible may not always be the best for your feet!  Ballet flats are just that - flat!  They lack an arch and therefore when your feet are in them, the arch tends to flatten out. This lack of arch support can cause arch pain and even a tendinitis along the inside ankle, called posterior tibial tendonitis, as that posterior tibial tendon struggles to pull and keep that arch up.  This is why sometimes after a long day of wearing flat shoes, patients tell me their feet hurt even more!  The increase in flexibility of these types of shoes actually means there is less support throughout the whole shoe.  Does this mean you stay away from ballet flats forever?  No, it does not.  There is a time and place for them.  If you are not walking far distances or standing for long periods of time, your feet should feel OK in the short term.  In order to provide a little more arch support, it is a good idea to place an orthotic in the shoe, and this will help with arch fatigue and arch pain. Our office can provide you with information on how to obtain custom orthotics that can fit into a ballet flat shoe.

High Heeled Shoes - They Are Beautiful, but at what expense?

High heeled shoes must have been invented by someone who never had to wear them, I am convinced. They are beautiful and add the perfect accent to an outfit, however they can be very uncomfortable for your foot.  Due to the increase pressure on the ball of the foot due to the high heels, this can wreak havoc on that part of the foot.  A common ailment is capsulitis, or pain and swelling in the joint where the 2nd toe attaches to the log bones of the foot.  You may feel pain at the base of the 2nd or 3rd toe.  Trying to balance your body weight on a high 3 or 4 inch heel can also lead to ankle instability, and there have been many cases in our office where a patient stepped the wrong way and twisted their ankle causing an ankle sprain or even a fracture! Due to the high heels, your achilles tendon (the chord in the back of the heel that comes from the calf muscle)  remains contracted for long periods of time.  In the long term, this can cause tightening of that tendon which can cause pain in back of the heel where the tendon inserts.  So although it is fun to be fashionable, beware of the long term effects of high heels!  

Flip Flops Are Comfortable - But to our Detriment?

It is so relaxing to kick off those work shoes and slip on some flip flops to lounge around in.  And especially in the warmer months, there is nothing like showing off your pedicure with a cute pair of slide-on flip flops. However, although flip flops can be convenient, there is a time and place for them.  Of course you need to wear them to the beach or the pool, but refrain from wearing them to an amusement park where you will be walking and standing all day, because you will regret it later. After walking or standing too long in flip flop type sandals, you will find the same types of discomfort that you did with a ballet flat - too much flexibility and no arch support, causing your foot to flatten out each step you take.  This can aggravate arch pain and heel pain, and can also aggravate or cause posterior tibial tendonitis.  We have also seen stress fractures with prolonged use as the constant microtrauma to the weightbearing bones cause pain and swelling.  In addition, flip flop type sandals may cause your toes to grip the shoe during the gait cycle to prevent the sandal from slipping off, and this is turn will aggravate a hammer toe condition.  There is a time and place for flip flop type sandals, so choose those times and limit them accordingly.

Uggs - The Most Comfortable Boots Out There?

Ugg brand boots, or any similar flat, cushioned boot with sherpa or woolen type lining, are advertised to be very comfortable on your feet.  And when you slip them on, they do seem very warm and inviting.  However when you stand or walk in them for a long time, you will find that they are so flat, as stated in other shoes above, that there is lack of arch support, thus causing your arch to collapse. After long term use, you will get arch fatigue that can lead to arch pain and heel pain.  In addition, the Ugg type boots are so flat that if you are used to wearing even a little bit of a heel, the flattening of the rear part of your foot can cause an Achilles tendonitis (inflammation of the tendon that inserts in the back of the heel) causing pain in the back of the heel.  Besides muscular problems, the Ugg manufacturers tout that they are so warm, you don't need socks!  Now following this advice is a mistake.  The inner lining made of thick fury material can trap moisture in the boot, possibly causing fungal infections of the skin including athlete's foot or aggravating a fungal nail.  If you must wear this type of boot, consider wearing them with a custom orthotic to lift the arch and also, please do wear socks with them!

For all the types of shoes available, there is not one single brand that is superior over another.  There are several reputable brands and styles out there, and the doctors at Prairie Path Foot and Ankle Clinic can help you navigate through those choices.  If you have foot pain, whether it be due to shoes or for any other reason, contact our office. 

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