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the worst shoes for your feet

AUTHOR: Marc Mitnick DPM

REVIEWED BY: Podiatric Medical Review Board

--> the worst shoes for your feet

Throughout this site I have mentioned again and again how certain types of shoes can cause and aggravate various foot and ankle problems. Pretty much on a weekly basis I have patients present to the office with various foot problems that I ultimately blame on the shoes that they are wearing.

If you develop a foot pain of some sort and have no explanation for how it began, always look to your shoes first. If a specific pain started a couple of days after wearing a new pair of shoes, look to them as the source of the problem. This is particularly true if you are having a similar pain in the same spot on both feet; the first place to look is at your shoes.

With that said, lets look at some of the culprits.

worn out shoes

Shoes are built to serve a function besides keeping us from stepping on broken glass and nails. Their primary goal is to support your feet in a particular manner so that you can walk in a proper gait.

worn out sneakers

Yes, some shoes are designed particularly for style and less for support but even those shoes have certain properties which help propel us.

In general once a shoe begins to "fall apart" it starts to work against your ability to walk properly. This concept is of greater significance in athletic shoes and other shoes which attempt to help certain foot types.

As I said earlier when you develop a foot pain of some sort, looking at your shoes is the first place to start. This is especially true in athletic shoes. Athletic shoes have characteristics which help an athlete perform better, so once an athletic shoe starts to fail in its original purpose, pain and injury will ensue.

Serious athletes are always advised to replace their athletic shoes at certain intervals even if they may appear to be in good shape at the time. I have seen many runners over the years who will mention that they change their shoes at certain time intervals based on the amount of mileage that they have put on them, this way they avoid the surprise of having pain because their running shoes have worn out and are no longer supporting in the designed way.

flip flops and very thin sandals

Every summer I know I am going to see in influx of plantar fasciitis and capsulitis as a result of people wearing flip flops and those that wear very flimsy sandals. Aside from the fact that these types of shoes barely protect your feet, their structure is such that opens you up to certain types of foot pain.

flip flops

These are shoes that were originally designed for the pool or beach, to be worn on a limited basis, solely to protect the bottom of the feet. As time has passed, flip flops and sandals have become an every day shoe for many people and that is where the problem begins.

These shoes offer absolutely no support through the arch and heel. Yes, there are some sandals and flip flops out there that have an arch support component to them, but I am talking about shoes such as the ones pictured here. Because they do not support the arch, those who are prone to developing plantar fasciitis have the problem exacerbated by wearing these types of shoes.

These types of shoes not only fail to support the arch, but because they are so flexible, they can cause the toes to over stretch and thus put a lot of pressure on the ball of the feet resulting in capsulitis and metatarsalgia as well as sesamoiditis .

The problem with flip flops and thin soled sandals is exacerbated when people are in situations where all of a sudden they have to run in them. Because these shoes are not held firmly in place on the feet, people either fall or at the very least end up scuffing their feet causing anywhere from minor to moderate trauma to their feet.

stiletto heels

Just by looking at a pair of high heel shoes any one can see the potential for foot problems after wearing them. Sure they look great, but worn on an every day basis will lead to problems of one kind or another in most women.

stiletto heels

Years ago when I first started in practice, when a women came in with a problem and I noticed that she was wearing stiletto heels, the first thing I did was give her a lecture on why her shoes were causing her pain and then discussed the proper type of shoe that she should be wearing. What a fool was I! These patients would very politely "yes" me to death and then go out and buy the types of shoes that looked good (stiletto heels), rather than the types of shoes that were good for their feet. So, stiletto heels are here to stay.

With that said, these types of shoes will also cause a multiple array of foot problems over time. Unique to these shoes is Achilles tendonitis. For women who wear this type of shoe on a daily basis, over time the Achilles tendon will begin to shorten. This is the nature of tendons; they adapt to the least amount of stress placed on them.

After years of wearing heels, many women will begin to notice that their Achilles tendon (the tendon in the back of the heel) will begin to hurt when they are not wearing their heels. Particularly when barefoot or wearing sandals or flip flops there will be pain in the back of their heels. This is because over time, the tendon has shortened to the point that when barefoot, there becomes such a strain on the tendon that it begins to hurt simply because it is too tight. In most cases, stretching exercises will not alleviate the problem, particularly in older women.

As should be obvious to any one looking at a stiletto heel, the potential for pain in the ball of the foot is certainly there. Because of the elevation of the heel, most walking pressure is placed on the forefoot. Not only is more weight placed on the ball of the foot, but the angle of the toes relative to the metatarsal bones is increased long before it should in a normal gait.

As with other poor types of shoes, the stiletto heel will cause conditions such as capsulitis, metatarsalgia and sesamoiditis. Not only is this due to the increased pressure on the ball of the foot from an elevated heel height, but is further aggravated by the thin sole seen in this type of dress shoe. By wearing a shoe like this, you are essentially jamming your forefoot into a very hard surface.

Many women who present to doctor's offices with forefoot pain as a result of wearing stiletto heels are often offered an orthotic to better distribute body weight and take pressure off the ball of the foot. I have yet to see a prescription orthotic that served any real purpose in a stiletto shoe for the simple reason that due to the tight fit of the foot to the shoe, there basically is no room for an orthotic. In order to get "something" into the shoe, a stiletto shoe orthotic ends up being a thin piece of leather or plastic which is simply worthless. Just because you can get it fit into the shoe, does not necessarily mean it is going to be of any value. For those who think an orthotic might be of some value, I would suggest looking into a medical grade, off the shelf orthotic first, to see if they are of any benefit. They are far less expensive and if they do not work, you are only out a small amount of money.

Believe it or not, there is one condition where a stiletto heel may be of benefit, and that is in plantar fasciitis. How? As mentioned previously, when a woman wears a high heel, that takes the tension off the Achilles tendon. Many anatomy experts consider the plantar fascial ligament to essentially be a continuation of the Achilles tendon. So by decreasing the tension on the Achilles tendon, you end up decreasing the tension on the plantar fascial ligament and that will diminish the pain in those suffering from plantar fasciitis.

thigh high boots

Everything we just discussed in stiletto heels is also possible with thigh high boots, plus more. Because of the nature of this type of boot where it extends up to the knee, a couple of other potential issues may develop.

thigh high boots

During the course of a day wearing this type of boot, particularly if this style is worn regularly, the feet are consistently in a dark and usually moist environment from perspiration. This is a perfect medium for foot fungus to grow, both on the skin and in the nails.

Additionally, there is an inherent set of potential problems in this shoe style not seen in other styles. If the top of the boot happens to be too tight there is an increased chance of nerve damage to the nerves that pass through the knee to the top of the lower leg. The pressure could either be to the back of the knee or the outside of the knee as that is where the two major nerves pass. Excessive pressure from the boot will put pressure on the nerves and can cause sensory problems such as tingling, burning, numbness or outright pain. In a much worse case scenario these types of boots and the excess pressure may also cause motor damage to the nerves innervating the lower leg and foot.

Since the vessels that also bring blood down to the foot and then back up happen to lie near the nerves, there can also be circulatory damage if the thigh boot is too tight. I would be concerned about the inability of the blood to properly drain from the foot and lower leg resulting in sluggish blood flow which could lead to swelling in the foot and ankle. Although I have never actually seen it, I suppose the argument could be made that in those individuals prone to it, a phlebitis could also potentially occur.

sheepskin boots

This type of boot ranging from the brand name version to the knock off versions offer some of the same problems found in thigh high boots and flip flops, yes, flip flops.

sheepskin boots

Though not quite as bad as flip flops, the sheepskin boot also fails to adequately support the arch. Without adequate support coupled with wearing them on a daily basis in cold weather, the potential for developing plantar fasciitis along with heel spurs is greatly increased. It is worth noting that in most instances where there is plantar fasciitis there is also a secondary problem such as a heel neuroma, heel bursitis and even tarsal tunnel. Forefoot conditions such as metatarsalgia, capsulitis and sesamoiditis can also occur, especially in brands that offer a very flexible sole. All of these problems can become chronic conditions even when the sheepskin boot is no longer worn.

Like the thigh high boots, the sheepskin boots also increase perspiration in the foot as well as an increased darkness due to the height of the boot. So once again the chance of skin and nail fungus is increased. Exacerbating this problem is that people tend to wear these boots almost on a daily basis in almost all seasons with the exception of summer. When the weather is more mild and the boots are being worn on a regular basis, this will increase the likelihood of a worsening effect.

ballet shoes

Ballet shoes have become a very fashionable shoe and so many women wear them on a regular basis. The shoe would have better served mankind has it remained the shoe of choice for ballerinas.

Once again the problem with this shoe is due to the flimsiness of the sole of this shoe. Because the sole is extremely flexible and because there is absolutely no arch support this shoe is an "accident waiting to happen" for many people.

ballerina shoes

Similar to flip flops, ballet shoes do not control the function of the foot and for many, foot control in a shoe is needed for those who have foot type that is either too flat or rigid.

Like the other shoes described in this article, ballerina shoes increase the potential for plantar fasciitis, capsulitis, metatarsalgia and sesamoiditis.

The takeaway message here is if you develop foot pain that you have no explanation for, I would suggest you look to the shoes that you wear on a regular basis as a potential source of the problem. Taking this one step further, if you are under the care of a doctor for a condition and in spite of trying multiple treatments, your foot is not responding, once again, look at the shoes you are wearing. Let's face it, if you are receiving the best medical treatment known to mankind for your particular problem, but are still wearing shoes that aggravate your type of problem, the chances of you getting better are extremely slim.

For those of you who just cannot give up wearing the shoes that you love, even though they may be the source of your foot problem, once small piece of advice would be to cut back on how often you wear these shoes. Alternating shoes is not a bad idea.


Web MD

Arthritis Foundation

Piedmont Healthcare

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ORTHOTICS for multiple types of foot pain
best buy in a pre-made orthotic
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ORTHOTICS for heel and arch pain for those who must wear dress shoes
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Hunterville, NC
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(location unknown)
I came to your website, via www.foot-pain explained .com which I think is also your website? I thought explanations for different types of problems were well addressed and thoughtfully stated for the patient in mind.


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Memphis, TN
Thanks again so much for the information in the article. Very interesting.


Great article. I have had plantar fasciitis since I was in high school……..

J. Simmons

(location unknown)
Dear Dr. Mitnick, The orthotics arrived four days ago and I slipped them into my shoes immediately. I was skeptical as to the usefulness of the item, they really didn't look very exotic. I have to say though, after using them for just four days, I have experienced grand relief from my foot pain. Even the very first day, I was able to do a lot of work while on my feet with at least a 75% reduction of pain. It has only gotten better every day, and I go nowhere without my shoes with the orthotics. I had been experiencing extreme heel and sole pain for about six months and had to take extended breaks off my feet many times a day as well as regular doses of Ibuprofen. Since getting the orthotics, my life has returned to normal and I feel good again. Just wanted to say thanks for the recommendation for a very effective item, I had no idea what a change this item could affect.

Yours truly,

J.C. Forbes

Thanks for the Response, you hit it on the head.


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Thank you for your time and expertise in answering my question…..


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First, thanks for putting together this website. Its the most informative site I have found dealing with foot problems. Last June I started having pain and swelling at …….


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Glenda B.

Madison, Alabama
Thanks for replying so quickly. I was a bit concerned. I think your website is great, and chock full of info.....


Denison, TX
Dr. Marc, Thank you so much for your reply which seemed to be right on. I have researched many sites but you put me on the right path to the possible answer. My foot pain may not rule the rest of my life after all! I believe I'll make a sign that reads, "THE END IS NEAR!" Thanks Very Much,


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Tampa, Florida 33624
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Just a wee word of thanks for your wonderful website...It is a terrific service...Thank you for providing your knowledge and help...With highest regards, m ebeling

Michael D. Ebeling

Tampa, Florida 33624

Thanks for a most interesting website, which has helped a lot.



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Mansfield Ctr, CT

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First, I want to let you know that you have the best web site I've found related to foot issues. (The only thing I had difficulty finding was the "ask a question" page.)


Unknown location

I received the orthotics Monday afternoon and began wearing them Tuesday. After two days I would say that I have noticed a huge improvement in the discomfort I have been experiencing. My foot feels better than it has in months.

Ric J.

Unknown location

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Pacific Grove, CA

I used to work for a podiatrist (front desk) back during summers in college years ago, so I know the benefits of good care. Again, I want to thank you for an EXCELLENT website. It was so great to get to your site (top of google search) and actually find all the answers I needed EASILY and QUICKLY! Clearly you put a ton of work into it and I really appreciate it.

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Alameda, California

By the way, millions of websites could use yours as a guideline on how to organize information and make the site user-friendly. Kudos to you!


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Hi. I come to your site often looking for information. It is really informative and I appreciate it very much. I have RA and have been having considerable amount of foot pain...... Dee RN

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New Zealand

Thank You for my answer! I have been schedule for a bone density scan, allingment, and I am in the process of getting orthotics made, and checking out the natural remedies. Thank again! What a great web site!



Yes I want both pair of orthotics. You don't have an option of ordering 2 at one time so I had to place the order twice. Thanks. My husband likes these and wants to put them in all of his shoes. (referring to Superstep orthotics)

Cindy H.

I searched the internet everywhere for a clear description and illustration of my symptoms/problem. was where I ended my search with answers. If I lived in Jersey (left 30 years ago) and didn't live in Florida I would definetly make an appointment with Dr. Mitnick.

Thanks, Kathy

1st of all THANKS A LOT for your great site......


Thank you so much for your response. I will let you know how I am doing if you would like. Your website is awesome!


South Carolina
Hello! I want to thank you for such an informative website! I found you based on my ankle pain search and am happy to realize that there may be a relatively simple cause and solution....


unknown location

...Thanks for your fantastic service.


Arlington, VA

Thank you so very much, that would be much appreciated. I love those insoles, by the way. (referring to Superstep orthotics)

Kelly W.

San Clemente, CA

Dr Marc is fantastic...He seems to know exactly what you are feeling with the problems you are having. I wish he was in my home town so I could go to him with my problems!!!!!!!!!!!!!


location unknown

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location unknown

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Dr. Mitnick, Thank you so much for your reply. I did let my physician know and they took an x-ray - all is well! Also, thank you for providing this wonderful site, it is very helpful with lots of useful information! I appreciate your gift of time! God bless.


Dr. Mitnick, Thank you, you were 100% correct. The pain finally brought me to the ER. I spent 8 days in the hospital. The Doppler you spoke of was able to show that there was no pulse in that foot. This was an arterial clot that split and traveled throughout my leg. My leg was almost amputated. I am in rough shape but have all my parts intact!! You certainly know what you are talking about. Thank you for taking the time to answer. Yours Truly!


Staying at home after hallux surgery I spend quite a lot of time seaching info useful for avoiding problems which might come back. Today I found your site and I am .... delighted it happened. It's one of the best site I found last days.



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Seattle, WA

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Also, and importantly, just want to praise this web site. Thorough and thoughtfully presented, it certainly must be of considerable assistance to anyone with a foot problem. Terrific -- and very interesting.I trust the address comes up easily for those seeking information.


New Jersey

Thanks so much for answering my question. You've been more help to me than my own Dr. has been lately. Thanks again....I hope to be able to walk without pain someday.


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Wow, that is exactly the information needed!!! thank you thank you thank you!!! I appreciate this help so very much from Marc Mitnick DPM. Excellent information and help to improve One's life.


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Thanks so much for this website Dr. Marc! It is so nice that you have this ask the doctor feature..I'm sure I'ts been helpful for alot of people. I will try what you suggested and see if it helps...thanks again!


Evansville, IA

Dear Marc

I just want to say thank you for the quick response and the good info. I find it amazing and a super nice thing that you do here by answering medical questions at no charge.

Russ W.

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Your website is full of a lot of helpful information, and I am very impressed with the time in which you responded to my post. Thank you again for your time and consideration in your response.


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San Diego, CA

Dr. Mitnick, Just want to say thank you so very much for your quick response and very informative reply! After reading what you had to say, I called the doctor's office and was able to get in and see him the same day as my injury. Toe was x-rayed and luckily, it is not broken or fractured. Very badly bruised and will probably lose the toe nail. And although my toe and toe nail are still very black and blue and very sore, they ARE both starting to feel a little better. So again, thank you! I am so very happy that I came across your website. The service you provide is outstanding and immeasurable!


Albany, NY

Thank you so much for all of your advice. In searching the web for people dealing with this same issue i can tell you that you are a Knight In shining Armor! If I lived in Jersey I would gladly be your Spokesperson. Hopefully next time you hear from me it will be good news. God Bless,

Jill S.

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Whichita, KS

thanks again, this site is very helpful.


Boston, MA

Like others have stated...This site is amazing and I am so thankful that it was created.

....Keep up what your doing. Your a life saver.



Thanks again for the information provided on your site. It's easy for non-medical folk to understand your writing, and helps provide better communication between patient and doctor.



Wonderful advice

by: Anonymous

This is the best site for foot problem info.

Thank you for this information. This description fits my pain and inflammation behind my 2nd toe perfectly.

by: Max

location unknown
Again, I really appreciate that you responded to my inquiry, and that your mention of Parkinson's helped me to find my way to a diagnosis of this difficult to diagnose disease. Most patients see on average 16 doctors before they are diagnosed. I hope that you can help other people that ask for your expertise in the future.

Barb D.

I just wanted to say that I am very greatful for this website!! I have had a fusion in my rt foot and am finally getting a little bit better......


location unknown
Again, Thank you from the bottom of my heart for taking the time to answer my question....your an angel!


Thank you for your response. You have provided some great insight (to my question)....


location unknown
Thank-you so very much for responding so quickly and in such detail to my question!! I will give my surgeon a call today!! This website is terrific!!!! Thank-you again!


North Carolina
Many Thanks Dr Marc!
Thank you for your response. It sounds like a good plan to me. He did not cut the wart out first ...


location unknown

Thanks again doc for having this website and we STILL need qualified Podiatrists in beautiful sunny Tampa Bay (Bradenton) Florida.

Bessie Mae

Dear Dr. Mitnick, Thank you so very much for taking your time to answer my question. You have greatly relieved my anxiety related to the continual tingly I feel in my feet. I will share your response with my podiatrist next week. God bless you for having this question and answer page on your website! Most gratefully,

Lynne T.

location unknown
Your webpage is excellent, I commend you on sharing your knowledge to the public.


New Jersey

Thank you. you were more detailed than what others have told me they finally called from the last xrays and my son is now in a cast for 2 weeks he did have a fracture that was not noticeable.

a mom

location unknown

I have read your website and I have to admit that I am amazed at all the information that is on here. I have learned more than the three years I have been going to several doctors that I have seen!!


Lenoir, NC

Thank you so much Doc for a quick and thorough response!


Bellevue, WA

I cannot thank you enough for your response, opinion, and suggestions! I want you to know how much it means to me, and I'm sure everyone else who has ever asked you a question! I feel like you're a lifesaver and have empowered me to take a stronger role and stand up for myself and my feet!


location unknown

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