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Podiatrist reveals the worst shoes for your feet

Shoe trends come and go, but these flats have never gone out of style – and this is a huge problem, says podiatrist, Alice Corbett.

The classic ballet flats are versatile, easy to throw on, and available at any price point. Inspired by the ballet slipper, they’re also a solid addition to any shoe collection.

But according to Alice Corbett, they’re a one-way ticket to a life of pain and deformity. Why? It all comes down to design. What makes the shoe aesthetically pleasing is actually doing the complete opposite of what we need them to do.

“To achieve the classic ‚dainty‘ ballet flat, there are traditional features that are not necessarily ideal for our feet,” Corbett tells Body+Soul.

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Sorry to rain on your parade, but it looks like the cons outweigh the pros when it comes to fashion’s classic shoe trend. 

“Walking around in a very flat shoe places increased tension and demand on some of the important tendons that insert into the heel bone (calcaneus),” Corbett explains, adding that as a result, you could end up with plantar fasciopathy – a structural change to the food – and Achilles tendinopathy – a condition that attaches the calf muscles to the heel bone.

Both are painful and debilitating conditions.

Another downside? The sole. A thin sole provides minimal cushioning and shock absorption, a feature that gives the ballet flat its dainty look.

“We cannot underestimate the load we place through our feet daily. Without some shock absorption, our feet can quickly become tired and achy as increased demand is placed on your bones and soft tissues,” Corbett explains.

Another issue? The fit. Ballet flats are designed to be slimline, which is why we don’t see chunky, clunky variations on the market. Again, the narrow fit is all part of its dainty appeal.

“The narrow and shallow toe box (where the toes sit), does not give much room for our toes to function freely or normally during walking,” Corbett says.

“They can compress the toes and forefoot, influencing the development of foot pain and deformities such as callous, ingrown toenails, Morton’s neuromas and bunions.”

So, what do we need to look out for when shopping for the next addition to our shoe collection? Support, says Corbett.

“Unlike a good casual trainer or brogue, most ballet flats offer minimal support. Support is primarily achieved by having a more structured heel counter, and firmer materials through the midfoot and arch contour. These features help to support the foot during walking and help control too much unnecessary movement in the foot,” she says.

We’ve also seen a new design feature added to the ballet flat this season (thanks Miu Miu): a strap across the bridge of the foot.

“Traditional ballet flats do not have any fastening or straps. Our feet have to work harder to keep them on our feet and this can often result in scrunching our toes and subsequent claw toe deformities over time,” she explains, adding that the strap hybrids are an “excellent addition.”

And if you can’t bring yourself to ditch the OG, there is some good news.

In most cases, wearing ballet flats for a short period of time is not an issue, Corbett admits, adding that she totally appreciates being able to put on a gorgeous pair of ballet flats for a brunch session, to work, or even a night out. “It is just avoiding prolonged day after day pavement pounding in such shoes that we advocate precaution with,” she says.

Her best tips? Wear more comfortable shoes for your morning commute, then swap in the ballet flats once you get to your desk.

And if you’re taking them out for the night, try not to stomp around on the dance floor – it’s a sure-fire way of fast-tracking yourself to a life of callouses and bunions, not to mention the very painful plantar fasciopathy and Achilles tendinopathy conditions.

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