If you were tasked with identifying the worst shoe style for your overall foot health, anything in the stiletto family probably comes to mind. Now, we aren’t here to tell you that high heels are the best for your feet, but we are here to inform you that one of your go-to comfortable shoe styles is actually really bad for your feet. The style we’re speaking on today is ballet flats. It’s typically considered a friendly footwear option, but a podiatrist and a ballerina see them in a different light. Ahead, find out what Bobby Pourziaee, DPM, of Rodeo Drive Podiatry (aka The High Heel Doc), and Indiana Woodward and Unity Phelan, soloists at New York City Ballet, have to say about the negative effects of ballet flats, in addition to the shoe styles they recommend instead.
What a podiatrist has to say:
“Ballet flats are a very popular shoe style for women on the go. I know because many of my patients ask me if they are okay to wear. It is all in moderation. I understand that even non-ballerina ladies like keeping ballet flats in the purse for the end of the workday or a night out on the town because they fold easily in their purse. But unfortunately, they aren’t the best shoe for your feet.
“The construct of ballet shoes provides very little support around and along the sole of the foot. This can expose the foot to high amounts of friction, which can cause pain along the bottom of the foot and cause blisters. The lack of support can put the foot in a vulnerable position, leading to potential twisting and sprains of the ankle and overuse injuries. Without proper arch support in ballet flats, wearing them for more than an hour a day can lead to plantar fasciitis and heel pain. Also, the very thin sole exposes the foot to potential puncture wounds. Stepping on any sharp object on the sidewalk or parking lot can break through the sole of the shoe, leading to potential infections.
“For professional ballerinas or even those who are just starting out, it is even more important on the kind of footwear they spend their time in while not dancing/walking.” — Bobby Pourziaee
What ballerinas have to say:
“As a professional dancer, I always need to take care of my feet and body. It’s so important to wear comfortable and supportive footwear when we are not dancing. I even switch from my pointe shoes to sneakers, just in between rehearsals. I really love wearing my Gaitline sneakers. They have changed my life! They are so supportive and cute and stylish at the same time. They’re very appropriate to wear for all occasions, which is really helpful when you want to wear comfortable shoes even with a dress. I tend to solely stick to my GaitLine sneakers, but on occasion, I’ll also wear my Dansko heeled boots for another cute and comfortable look.” — Indiana Woodward
“Ballet dancers are constantly moving and constantly on their feet. When it comes to footwear off the stage, I always go with support. The two things I would recommend are sneakers (specifically Gaitline) and Dr. Scholl’s arch supports. I love my Rothy’s, but without my added arch supports, I can hardly walk two blocks. Most arch supports fit in almost every shoe (except heels, and believe me—I’ve tried!). My Puma baskets (like Converse only more comfortable) with my arch supports in them are my go-to shoe. Gaitline sneakers are a splurge but the most supportive yet fashionable sneakers I have found. If you are in need of a comfortable shoe that feels like orthotics, this is the one.” — Unity Phelan
“Chunky sneakers that are stylish for the season can also be a good alternative for the obvious reasons: ankle support, thicker sole, and you will be able to wear them for a long period of time and walk longer distances without long-term damage to the foot.” — Pourziaee
“A good brand that can help with shock absorption is Okabashi. Flip-flops with arch support can still easily go into a purse … and will prevent foot pain at the end of the day/night.” — Pourziaee