Heels, Flats, or Sneakers: Which Shoes Are Best for Healthy, Happy Feet?

If you’re having problems with your feet, you may be thinking about footwear more than usual. Or maybe you’ve heard that certain types of shoes are bad for your feet and wonder what you should and shouldn’t be wearing. Whatever the reason, we’re here to help you navigate the confusing array of shoes you find when you go shopping. 

Your shoes vary, by necessity, with your activities. Obviously, you wouldn’t wear dress shoes to the gym, and you may not have the freedom to wear sneakers to work. However, there is a scale from “shoes that are the worst for your feet” to “shoes that aren’t as bad” to “shoes that help your feet stay healthy.” 

Worst choice

High, thin heels and narrow, pointed toe boxes do not make your feet -- or your knees, hips, or back -- happy. You may love the way they look, but you won’t like the way they make your feet feel later.

High heels, especially those that are three inches or higher, change your posture. Your upper body is thrust forward, so you have to curve your spine more to stay upright. This puts extra pressure on your hips and knees as well as the balls of your feet. 

In addition to changing your posture, high heels offer little in the way of stability. You’re more likely to fall wearing high heels than wearing other types of shoes, especially if you have to walk across an uneven surface, such as a gravel parking lot.

Your calf muscles stay tight when you wear heels, and over time your Achilles tendon can become shortened from wearing high heels. Plus, the tissue on the balls of your feet becomes thinner and provides less protection. 

Combining high heels with a narrow, pointed toe box adds even more pressure on your toes. You’re more susceptible to ingrown toenails, and if you have a bunion, a narrow toe box can aggravate it.

A better choice

There are times you need to dress up, and if high heels are a bad option, you may need to consider flats. There are so many different shoes that fall into the category of flats, though, that you may still have difficulty choosing.

Look for flats that have a wide, rounded toe box and some cushioning and support. Rubber soles help with stability and shock absorption. 

Choose a pair made of a pliable material, such as soft leather, that will give in areas you need them to -- like around a bunion.

A comfortable choice

Sneakers are a good option, but yet again, the wide variety of styles and types can be confusing. And when it comes down to it, the best sneaker for your foot depends on you, your needs, and your specific situation.

If you have normal feet, you may do well to begin moving toward a lighter, more flexible, minimalist-style sneaker. There’s some evidence that these more flexible shoes help you build strong muscles in your feet, and that may protect you against injury.

But you may have specific needs. Perhaps you have plantar fasciitis or you’re diabetic or you have back problems. Your habits are a factor as well, such as how much you run or walk.

Regardless of your health status, your lifestyle, or other factors, you need shoes that fit comfortably. Your shoes should be long enough and wide enough for your foot to help prevent calluses, bunions, or corns.

You should also look for shoes that have a low, wide heel, a flexible sole, and laces or straps that keep them securely on your feet.

If you’d like to learn more about shoes that help your feet stay happy and healthy, call our office in Coral Gables or Plantation, Florida, to book an appointment with Cary B. Chapman, MD. He’s happy to answer your questions and suggest shoes that will work well for you. 

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