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This amazing guest post was written by Dr. Simone Burke, a Naturopathic Doctor. You can check out her website here!

The relationship between women and their shoes is well known.  Women will often forego comfort for style. The stiletto is a prime example. But what can be better than a shoe that gives both comfort and style?  Ballet flats have become a staple in women’s footwear for just that reason.  Regarding fashion, they work well whatever your height.  Ballet flats are a slipper-like shoe; they have a very thin or completely flat heel, a closed toe and a low cut that reveals the top of the foot.

Actress Audrey Hepburn is said to be responsible for making ballet flats so popular; she set the trend when she was seen with cropped skinny jeans and a pair of ballet flats in the film “Funny Face” in 1957.  Ballet flats are often the shoe of choice if you are doing a lot of walking or while commuting before slipping into heels for work.  They are also great for in-between seasons; when it is not yet warm enough for sandals but not cold enough for winter boots.

What may come as a surprise is even though many women reach for them for comfort, ballet flats are not good for your feet.  Because of the shape and lack of support in the shoe, they don’t support the mechanics of the foot. 

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Each foot has 26 bones, 33 joints, and more than 120 muscles, ligaments, tendons, and nerves. Your feet are small in comparison to the rest of your body.  Your feet support the weight of your body and they act as shock absorbers; with each step, they receive an enormous impact. 

Your feet also keep you balanced.  With each step, you utilize all muscles and bones of the foot.  On average, people spend about four hours standing on their feet every day and take around 10,000 individual steps. This adds up to hundreds of tons of weight every day.

Decades of standing changes your feet. A lot of the natural cushion of padding under your heel and the ball of your foot are naturally lost as we age.  The arches get flatter and less flexible, your ankles and foot joints become stiffer, and your whole foot gets wider and longer. The need for supportive shoes becomes important.

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In Traditional Chinese Medicine the health of the feet is crucial to the health of the body.  The meridians (channels) for the liver, spleen, kidney, bladder, gall bladder, and stomach either begin or end on the feet.  Any pain or disruption in the feet can affect the energy flow to these organ systems.

One of the leading causes of foot problems is poor-fitting shoes, shoes that are too narrow, high-heeled shoes, shoes with slippery soles, or shoes that offer no protection or support.  It is estimated that three out of four people over the age of 65 wear shoes that are too small. 

4 Common Foot Problems Seem With Ballet Flats Include

woman with a few ballet flat shoes

1. Plantar Fasciitis

Caused when the ligament that supports the arch is strained causing heel pain or pain in the bottom of the foot. The bottoms of the ballet flats are thin and flat providing very little arch support.  Arch support is important to keep the foot functioning optimally. 

2. Knee, Hip and Back Problems

Poor arch support can also cause these.  Arch support allows your foot to act as a shock absorber and enables you to balance.  Without that, your skeletal frame changes leading to more back, hip and knee problems.

3. A Bunion

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A bunion is a painful lump at the base of the big toe which may cause the toe to bend unnaturally.  Over time, shoes that confine or force the toes together can cause the base of the big toe joint to get displaced.  This can get worse over time leading to pain and inflammation. 

Bunions can also be present on the side of the little toe.  This is called a bunionette.  Treatment of bunions can include rest, icing, changing footwear, foot support (orthotics), medications, steroid injections, and sometimes surgery.

4. Bursitis

Sometimes the bursa (protective fluid-filled sac) close to the toe becomes inflamed leading to bursitis.

Choosing a Shoe With The Right Support

Next time you go to choose a shoe, get a professional to measure your foot before buying.  Your feet change over time so you may need a change in size or width.  The best time to measure your feet is at the end of the day when your feet are the largest.

  1. Choose the right heel.  One that is chunky (not a pointed heel) and that is less than 2 inches high.  They provide height but also distribute weight evenly so not too much pressure is placed on one part of the foot.
  2. 2. Make sure that the shoe bends at the toe box but is not too flexible.  You want to have movement in the toe area but also support.  Shoes should not restrict your feet.
  3. Choose shoes with good arch support. Arch support enables your feet to act as shock absorbers and keeps you balanced.
  4. Get orthotics.  If you have a pair of shoes that you love but they just don’t have the support you need, get orthotics.  The inserts will provide arch support and reduce pressure on sensitive areas of the foot.
  5. One foot is usually bigger than the other so remember to try on both feet and choose the size that fits the bigger foot.
  6. When trying on shoes, make sure there is enough space (3/8″ to 1/2″) to accommodate your longest toe at the end of each shoe when you are standing up.
  7. Your heel should fit comfortably and should not be rubbing on the back of the shoe as you walk.
  8. Caution with shoes with seams along the sides as the seams may cut into your feet.
  9. Choose shoes in the right fabric.  Some materials are harder and cut into the foot.

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Dr. Simone Burke
Naturopathic Doctor
Dr. Simone Burke is a Naturopathic Doctor and founder of Perfect Health Blueprint – an online membership community which offers step by step online courses to help you manage your weight, energy and hormones, done for you meal plans, monthly challenges, interactive training webinars, exercise tips and a friendly supportive community.
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