Footwear podiatrists dislike and why

Mar 3, 2020

Do you know what your shoe is doing to you?

Wearing the wrong shoe on your feet can cause a variety of issues – everything from blisters, corns and calluses to neuralgia, toe deformities and overuse or functional complaints. 

Listed below are some of the most common footwear choices that can cause or contribute to foot ailments. 

Ballet Flats

Ballet flats may remind you of your younger years, dancing or that simple versatile shoe that can be worn with multiple outfits.  Most, however, are not good for your feet. They are often a flat, firm but flexible soled shoe, with a narrow shallow toe box that only covers the toes and a small part of your forefoot.  As a result, your toes are squashed into the toe box in order for the shoe to hold onto your foot. The pressure can cause corns and callous development.  For those with hyperextended big toes (the ones that curl up to the sky), ballet flats will put pressure on the nail plate, raising the nail off the toe creating an opaque elevated pocket - which is prone to secondary fungal nail infections.

High Heels

When the shoe is too high with a narrow configuration, it causes compression and increases pressure on the forefoot - resulting in pain often described as pins and needles, burning or numbness in the ball of the foot or toes.  The angle of inclination the foot sits at, as well as shoe compression, can result in more toe deformities and encourage the development of bunions.  The excessive heel height also increases your chance of ankle sprains and long- term foot damage. 

Soft Shoes

Ever wondered why podiatrists cringe at the sight of soft footwear?  That’s because shoes are worn to stabilise the foot, facilitate function and provide comfort.  I know what you’re thinking: ‘But they’re so soft and comfortable, it’s like wearing my slippers all day, they’re just like little pillows under my feet’.  We understand, they are soft and warm and feel good, but that’s where it ends.

Footwear that is soft and squishy, can fold in half and has the ability to squash the sole with two fingers, are not doing you any favours.  Our feet move and transfer weight from heel to toe as we walk. We don’t walk picking our feet up and placing them flat on the floor.  As our foot moves, our body weight transfers in focal areas from the heel to the forefoot with increased pressure from momentum.  As our weight is pressed on the sole of a soft shoe it fatigues - rolling your foot even more and accentuating the amount we pronate or supinate - making your feet work harder.  This is even further heightened if on uneven terrain! It increases joint and soft tissue loading, as well as stress.  Over time it can be the cause and start of foot and knee related pain.  

How do those soft, lightweight, travel shoes for European cobblestone strolls sound now? Not a great idea! Trust us, you won’t be alone coming home with a painful lasting holiday reminder.

Our top tips for buying shoes:  

1. You should have space for all your toes (that includes the big one) and a little gap on either side of your big and little toe, at the front and also on the top. 

2. The shoes should be stiff through the mid-section and not bend in half. They should bend at the toes.

3. Aim for a heel gradient of 1-2cm.

4. The shoe should fasten to your foot with Velcro, buckles, laces etc.

5. Remember shoes do not require breaking in!

6. Always go shoe shopping late in the day when your feet are most swollen.  

7. Don’t be afraid to walk around the shop with them on. 

As much as we discourage these shoe types for everyday activity. We do however understand that there will be times when a variation in footwear is required.  Wearing them for special occasions, short periods of time and with minimal physical activity can be ok.  If you are in doubt about your shoes, or your feet, check in with a Podiatrist. We are busy podiatrists on the Sunshine Coast and in Brisbane too. Contact us for an appointment if required today.