If you take a quick look into your shoe closet, chances are that you have at least one pair of flat soled shoes. Whether it’s a pair of ballet flats, a simple pair of flip-flops, or slip-on sandals for the summer months, flat soled shoes are a common piece of attire that many of us have. Most of us gravitate towards them because they are easy to put on, perfect for warmer weather, and are generally inexpensive, but the real question here is: why shouldn’t you own them? More and more cases of foot problems are cropping up, and the common factor that has linked them all are flat soled shoes.
What Makes Flat Soled Shoes Bad for Your Feet?
There are several characteristics of flat soled shoes that can harm your feet:
Thin, unsupportive soles that provide no arch support.
Narrow toe boxes that crowd toes/squish toes together.
No ankle coverage to lock-in your heel, causing slippage and shifting.
No arch support means an unsteady gait.
What Kinds of Health Problems Can They Cause?
In wearing flat soled shoes for a prolonged period of time, they can actually cause several types of health problems. While we all know and understand that we need proper fitting shoes, many of us just think about the size of the shoe, and not necessarily how the sole of the shoe impacts us.
1. Plantar Fasciitis. A common condition caused by flat soled shoes is plantar fasciitis. This is a condition that is hallmarked by heel pain and stiffness along the bottom of your foot, where the plantar fascia ligament resides. When you wear flat soled shoes, there is very little between your foot and the shock your foot must absorb, and as a result, the thin, long ligament directly beneath your skin along the bottom of your foot, ends up taking the brunt of the shock. This causes it to become injured and inflamed.
2. Skeletal Misalignment. Since flat soled shoes do not provide you with a steady foundation to walk on, they create unsteadiness in your gait. This causes your knees, pelvis, hips, and spine to try and compensate, shifting your skeletal alignment as a result. Without a change of shoes, and without stretching, you’re likely to continue to have an awkward gait.
3. Blistering. Flat soled shoes are more likely to give you blisters because they have no shock absorption. Flip-flops, ballet shoes, and slip-on sandals are all built to be light, and thin, forcing your heels to take on the impact every time you step down. Ever wondered why you get blisters on the bottom of your heel, along your toes, or even on the top of your foot? This is why.
4. Ingrown Toenails. If you are a chronic wearer of ballet flats, you’re likely to experience an ingrown toenail from time to time. The narrow toe box of the ballet shoe leaves your toes no room to spread out as they need, and in some cases, may actually squeeze your toes together. When this happens, your toenails are more likely to grow inward, towards the skin, rather than outward. If an ingrown toenail is left, it can cause an infection.
How Can You Prevent These Problems?
While the easiest way to prevent the above problems is to simply not wear flat soled shoes, here are some tips you can use to prevent these health problems from occurring.
With plantar fasciitis, choose flats that have arch support. Also choose flats that have a very thick sole to them, so that you are absorbing less of the shock when you walk. You may also consider purchasing some orthotic inserts if you really want to wear your flats. These can help absorb some shock and give you a little more support.
For misalignment, find ballet flats or loafers that come with very high arch supports. You may also want to look for an expensive pair that comes with a much wider toe box, so that your feet have the room they need to maneuver without causing problems with shifting.
For blistering, you need a low-heel and a bigger sole to help prevent blisters from forming. If your shoes are giving you blisters, remove them from your rotation and wear something else until the blisters have healed.
For ingrown toenails, you need shoes that allow you to wiggle your toes inside the shoe box. If you wiggle them, and they rub against the side of the shoe or squish together and cause you pain, then the shoe is too narrow. While this applies to ballet flats, it also applies to any other closed-toe shoe.
What Are Some Alternative Shoes You Can Wear Instead?
If you really want to go with a shoe that has a flatter sole, we would recommend looking into either wedge heels or athletic sneakers. A wedge heel is going to provide better support and balance because it has a slight angle to the sole, while an athletic sneaker is going to provide you with much better arch support. Plus, sneakers also provide better heel support by locking it in.