Flats vs. Heels: Which is Better for Your Feet?

April 7, 2017

Dr. Shermi Parikh

It's common knowledge just how bad those stiletto heels can be for your feet, but going too far in the opposite direction can cause problems as well. Many women turn to ballet flats as a comfortable yet professional alternative to high heels, but flats can cause their fare share of foot problems.  

Many patients think the lower the heel, the better the shoe is for your feet. This is true for the most part, as lower heels keep your feet in a more natural position than the highly arched strain of super high heels. However, flats are called flats for a reason - these thin-soled, slipper-like shoes provide little to no support for your feet. Walking around for extended periods of time with nothing to support the arch of your feet can lead to hip, knee, and back problems. 

Common Problems with Ballet Flats

1. Unsupportive flats have been shown to cause plantar fasciitis, a condition that results from the inflammation of the tissue ("plantar fascia") that connects your heel bone to your toe. Shoes without any arch support can cause the arches of your feet to drop, and the ligaments and tendon at the base of the feet to overstretch and tear. 

2. Flats that don't fit properly - especially if they are too small for your feet - can result in ingrown toenails and even bone infections. Your feet should be able to wiggle freely within the shoe without any pain, while still providing a comfortably snug fit. 

3. Flats and other thin-soled shoes can cause back, hip, and knee problems. The lack of support for your feet can lead to over compensation in your hips and knees that can cause misalignment of the spine, pelvis, and knees. These thin, unsupportive soles also lack the proper shock absorption needed for running around all day. Your heel bones then take the brunt of the impact as you walk about, which can result in long-term foot pain. 

When it comes down to it, not all flats are bad! They certainly aren't the saintly alternative to your ultra-high heels, but their lack of arch or sole support keeps them on the list of shoes that don't make the best everyday wear. If you do rely on them as your daily footwear, look for styles that offer hidden arches, or that have a rounded or square toe. Dr. Parikh can help guide you to a shoe that provides the perfect, podiatrist-approved fit.