On Sunday mornings I like to get up a little later, drink my coffee slowly, and read the Sunday Seattle Times. Besides keeping up with all the really important news, I often scan for tidbits about feet, shoes, and anything related to podiatry.

Yesterday I read something that is quite dismaying for a Seattle podiatrist. Flat, flat shoes are in!

Now I already knew about ballet flats being all the rage, but I was unaware of all the other flat shoes that are also considered trendy this season. Besides ballet flats the article specifically mentioned loafers, oxfords, pointed shoe flats, and sneakers.

Now I wouldn't go so far to say that flats are a bad choice for everyone, but unless you're in your 20s or have perfect feet (never had a smidge of foot pain), my advice is to wear them sparingly.


Unfortunately as cute or "in" as they are flat shoes are just never going to provide the support most people need in a shoe and can lead to the number one problem that podiatrists see in their office--heel pain or plantar fasciitis.

How Do I Know Flats Will Be Bad For Me?

Flat feet are the best indicator that you'll have problems with ballet flats. To determine your foot type, wet the sole of your foot. Step onto a blank piece of paper or a shopping bag. Step off the paper or shopping bag to examine the shape of your footprint and compare it to the photo to the right. If it turns out your feet are flat then you'll want to avoid these trendy shoes.

People with flat feet are more likely to develop heel pain and flat shoes will only increase the risk due to overstretching of the plantar fascia. These shoes will relax the pull on the plantar fascia and in addition, relax the calf muscle which connects to the plantar fascia.

How and Why Flats Cause Heel Pain

  • You've been wearing high heels a lot and all of a sudden you switch to flats. When you wear heels your calf muscle which attaches to your plantar fascia shortens up. Once you stop wearing heels and go to flats you're essentially stretching out your calf muscle too rapidly which causes micro tears at the place where the fascia attaches to the heel. The result-- pain!
  • You already have faulty foot type (i.e. flat feet) and you needed support all along to prevent heel pain.
  • You've had heel pain in the past putting you at higher risk for getting it again.

What If I Still Want To Be Trendy?

You can still be trendy and prevent foot problems if you know the right shoes to buy.  Buy flat shoes that have some arch support such as the Rockport Cobb Hill Mary Jane Flat.

However, if you’re going to wear a regular ballet flat here are some recommendations:

  • Wear them sparingly; if you have an office job and you’re not constantly on your feet you’ll probably be fine. But if you work in sales or are constantly on your feet you’re just asking for trouble.
  • Get yourself a pair of Powersteps or Superfeet for your ballet flats. It will make a big difference in providing the support your need.
  • If you walk to work or long distances, wear tennis shoes or another supportive low heeled shoe, not ballet flats.
  • Alternate between ballet flats and other shoes with a slight heel.
Dr. Rion Berg
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A podiatrist in North Seattle treating families for over 40 years.
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