Step into Spring With the Right Footwear

by Rebecca Pruthi, DPM

As spring makes its long awaited arrival, we can finally start drifting away from winter’s heavy boots and start shifting to lightweight spring footwear. Recently, I was asked about what shoes women should wear during their daily commutes to work. The ballet slipper or a low heeled shoe? Here are some of the differences associated with the two choices.

Can a ballet flat cause damage? Personally, I love my ballet flats. However, ballet slippers may not be the best choice. Because ballet slippers lack in support, they can cause conditions such as shin splints, plantar fasciitis, and Achilles tendinitis. Over time, this may lead to compensation that may put stress on our ankles, knees, hips, and eventually, the back and spine.

Since the arch is usually not protected in a ballet flat, there is more stress on the foot. Pronation may be exaggerated and the gait cycle may be altered. Long term, this causes more stress on all the other body joints, and can lead to fatigue, muscle imbalances, and issues with proper alignment. Also ballet flats can be very thin, so sharp objects piercing through could be a hazard.

Why might a low heeled shoe be better? A low heeled shoe can help take the stress from the arch and reduce overall stress on the foot and the Achilles tendon. Also usually they have more rigidity and some have arch support which may further provide for better stability.

When seeking out a low heel, optimal height is less than 1.5 inches. A wider heel is better than a very narrow one. Low heel wedges are better since there is more surface area with the ground. Rubber soles obviously can give you a better grip on the ground and minimize slipping.

If a woman chooses to wear ballet flats, an added insole with arch support may help. I like custom-molded versus over-the-counter, since they are specifically tailored for each individual’s foot type and can help correct for abnormal gait patterns. Also ballet flats are better if worn for short periods of time. Strengthening and stretching is also recommended to build up the foot muscles.

I also recommend switching shoes whenever possible. Remember, however, the correct shoe is the one that fits properly. So step out this spring, get a proper foot measurement and make sure the shoe you choose is the right one.

The content provided on this blog by Dr. Pruthi is for general informational purposes only and is not intended as a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. If you have or suspect you have a medical problem, promptly contact your professional health-care provider.