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The best and worst shoes for your feet

The right shoes can help prevent foot, leg and back pain. The support you get from the ground up has an impact on the alignment of your entire body, says Jocelyn Curry, D.P.M., a Piedmont podiatrist, so it is wise to invest in the right style of footwear.

Shoes to avoid

Fashion shoes may look attractive, but they aren’t doing your body any favors. Dr. Curry says the worst types of shoes for your feet include:

  • High heels. Three- to four-inch heels change the alignment of your body, which puts extra stress on your legs, hips and back. Wearing high heels regularly causes the Achilles tendon to tighten and shorten, which can actually make it painful to wear flat shoes. High heels also create more pressure on the ball of your foot, which causes the foot’s natural padding to thin and provide less cushion where you need it most. All of this extra pressure can also lead to calluses.

  • Pointed-toe shoes, particularly high heels, that scrunch your toes together. These can aggravate an existing bunion, which is a hard lump on the joint of your big toe. The awkward positioning of your toes can also cause them to contract and eventually curl under permanently, a condition known as hammertoe. Hammertoe requires medical intervention to correct.  

  • Flip flops. Flat flip flops provide no support. Lack of proper foot support is a leading cause of plantar fasciitis and Achilles tendinitis. Plantar fasciitis is caused by the excessive pull of the plantar fascia, an arch-supporting ligament, causing pain and inflammation at the heel. Achilles tendinitis is caused by poor mechanics of the foot, leading to overstretching of the tendon. This sometimes leads to bone spurs. The thong flip flop can also cause hammertoe as the toes constantly struggle to hold the foot in the shoe. 

  • Ballet flats. Ballet flats are equally as bad for your feet as flip flops because they, too, provide little support. There is no arch system to help absorb the brunt of the pressure the feet endure every day.

  • Flexible shoes. If you can bend and twist a pair of shoes with ease, Dr. Curry says they are not going to be supportive enough. Shoes with good arch support will be difficult to manipulate. She warns against buying any shoes that can bend in half.

The best shoes for your feet

Dr. Curry says the best shoes for your feet include:

  • Wedge heels. In lieu of high-heeled stilettos, consider wearing a slight wedge shoe with no more than a ½- to a 1.5-inch wedge. This slight angle can provide better support and balance.

  • Sneakers. While athletic shoes are generally supportive, most sneakers have a lifespan of six months or 500 miles due to the softer shoe material. If they’re worn out, you could be setting yourself up for injury.   

Switch up your footwear

Alternate your shoes daily. Avoid wearing the same shoes more than four to five days in a row. Rotating your footwear reduces overuse of a muscle group or set of joints.

Dr. Curry recommends wearing the right shoes for the occasion. Wear sneakers or supportive footwear for any type of exercise or when you know you’ll spend long periods of time on your feet.  

“You only get one set of feet in this lifetime,” says Dr. Curry. “It’s important to take care of them properly. The sacrifice of wearing the latest fad in shoe wear is not worth the health risk of permanent foot deformities with accompanying knee or hip pain.”

Learn more ways to keep your feet in top shape.

Need to make an appointment with a Piedmont physician? Save time, book online.

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