Last year, I developed a painful case of tendonitis (inflammation of the tissue between my muscles and bones) in my feet. My toes wouldn't uncurl, and I spent the better of a week soaking them in hot water to appease my angry muscles. The culprit, my doctor said, was a combination of weak ankles and my not-very-supportive winter boots.
Winter boots? Yes. It turns out that heels aren't the only problem.
The Cleveland Clinic has helpfully broken down the best types of shoes for various kinds of foot problems:
Heels increase pressure on both feet and knees
When it comes to heels, chunky heels might be better than stilettos, but not by much, according to one Harvard study. Both significantly increase pressure on your knees (chunky heels by 22 percent, and narrow heels by 26 percent), which can cause pain and potentially strained muscles. High heels, which push your back forward, can also throw your spine and hips out of alignment, which can cause pain.
According to the Spine Health Institute, a one-inch heel increases pressure on your foot by 22 percent, a two-inch heel ups it by 57 percent, and a three-inch heel increases the burden on your foot by a massive 76 percent, which can also cause pain and injure your muscles.
Flats and flip-flops aren't much better
Flats don't give your arch enough support, which can lead to back, knee, and foot pain, and flip-flops do similar damage. Both can also lead to plantar fasciitis, a painful conditionin which the tissue on the bottom of your foot becomes inflamed from supporting your arch without the help of shoes.
When you wear flats or flip-flops, you're forcing your body to change the way you walk to support itself. One 2008 Auburn study found that people who wore flip-flops took shorter steps than people wearing other types of shoes, and the researchers speculated the change in gait put extra strain on muscles, causing back, foot, and leg pain. People also curl their toes when wearing flip-flops, and that constant flexing of the foot can cause strain, as well.
If you want to wear flats, put in an orthotic insert to give your foot more arch support, experts say, and save flip-flops just for walking on the beach.