Uncomfortable shoes can make a long day at work much longer, not to mention painful. High heels are rough on your feet and ballet flats don't feel much better, but somewhere in the middle are stylish and comfortable work shoes for women.
The Basics ---
- It's not easy finding work shoes for women that are comfortable and fashionable, but there are some styles that will keep your feet happy during your commute and all day long.
- The best work shoes for women are low-heeled and have enough room in the toe box so the front of your foot isn't squished. Brands like Clarks, LifeStride, Kork-Ease and La Canadienne offer great options.
- Stylish flats are a great option for work and brands like Naturalizer, Clarks, Tieks and Rothys are a go-to.
- Adding firm support to your work shoes can make a huge difference in your comfort. We recommend Tread Labs Ramble Short insoles in your flats and other low-heeled footwear.
What You Need To Know ---
Why Do High Heels Hurt Your Feet?
In short, it's all about their structure. High heels hurt your feet because the elevation at your heel shifts your body weight forward. That puts increased pressure on the balls of your feet and your toes, and that leaves your feet in agony. Yet, despite being a leading cause of foot pain, high heels are still a popular choice.
Neal M. Blitz, Doctor of Podiatric Medicine (D.P.M.) and foot and ankle surgeon says, “It’s important to recognize that walking in high heels itself is unnatural.” In fact, your body and feet will gradually begin to compensate for your unnatural gait, leading to:
Tightness in the calf muscle and Achilles tendon
Weakness of the toes
Instability of the ankle
If you have to wear high heels, one of the best ways to prevent future foot problems is to reduce the amount of time you wear them. As Matthew G. Garoufalis, D.P.M., former president of the American Podiatric Medical Association contends, “With high heels, moderation is key. It’s best not to wear them every day.”
Our best advice?
Wear sneakers or other supportive shoes during your commute. Wearing supportive shoes (with insoles) if your commute involves walking will help keep your feet happy. Change into your heels when you get to the office.
Try not to wear your heels everyday. There are lots of non-high heel options that are appropriate work attire. If you can wear those to the office some days and vary your shoe choice, that will help out a lot. Make sure you add insoles for comfort and support.
Modify your heels. Find a cobbler in your area and see how they can modify your heels. Adding rubber soles and heel tips will increase the thickness of the sole, prevent slipping, and increase comfort.
As Garoufalis states, “Daily heel-wearing can cause the Achilles tendon, the strong tendon at the back of your ankle, to shrink. This increases your risk of an injury while doing activities in flat shoes, including exercise.” Taking care of your feet when you're wearing high heels is the best way to prevent injury.
Is It Okay To Wear High Heels Every Day?The American Podiatric Medical Association advises women not to wear high heels all the time, just on special occasions.” Otherwise, you could experience “high-heel hangover.” If your feet are consistently in pain after wearing heels, even when you switch to sneakers or flats, then you probably have “hungover” feet. For relief, try:
- Stretching. Stretch your Achilles tendon and calf muscles, both of which shorten when wearing high heels. Try poses like downward dog that stretch the calves and standing balances that help stretch and strengthen your foot.
- Range-of-motion exercises. Try moving your foot to the left, right, up, down, and then in circles. Another option is to trace an imaginary alphabet with your foot. Repeat on the other side.
- Epsom salts. Soak your feet in Epsom salts for 30 minutes twice a day. The magnesium and sulfate in the salts are absorbed through the skin and help repair tissue. This can also alleviate ingrown toenails.
How To Choose The Best High Heels
While you've heard the consequences your feet suffer because of high heels, of wearing heels, you know there are still some occasions that require them. When no other shoe will do, find high heels that:
- Are 2 inches or lower. The higher the heel, the more stress on the front of the foot.
- Have a wide toe box (the part of the shoe that surrounds your toes). Avoid pointy-toed heels as they put added pressure on the front of the foot.
- High, pointy stilettos. Because pointy-toed heels narrow around the toes, they will cramp your toes. Their height will put extra pressure on the front of your foot.
- Peep-toed heels. Heels with a small opening in the front that shoes off the toes can push toes forward or even cause them to overlap. Sometimes they can force the nail into the skin, causing ingrown toenails.
- Very high wedges or platforms. These stylish shoes may appear to provide more support than heels as the platform is often the same height from ball to heel. However, they can often cause problems with balance and stability, leading to ankle rolls. If you do wear wedges, choose a lower height and one with ankles straps to provide extra support.
What Are The Best Work Shoes For Women?
If you're now ready to swear off high heels forever and you need to build out your low-heeled shoe wardrobe, you might be wondering which shoes brands you should look at for options that are both comfortable and stylish. Here are a few of our top picks.
- Clarks. With lower heels, thick soles, and wide toe boxes, these heels provide comfort with a conservative style that meets professional dress codes without appearing dowdy.
- LifeStride. At the intersection of comfort and style, LifeStride features a large selection of widths to fit every foot. These affordable shoes are designed specifically for women who need to be on their feet all day.
- Kork-Ease. Once known solely for their cork wedge sandals, Kork-Ease has expanded into boots and booties. With thick, rubber soles and comfortable footbeds, these boots will provide day-long comfort.
- La Canadienne. If you are looking for comfortable winter boots with a heel, La Canadienne provides stability, style and comfort. They have a variety of heel heights and styles to choose from. And they now have heels.
We recommend trying shoes on in a store before purchasing. Walk around. Wear your work attire with them to see if their height is compatible with your hem. And remember, the end of the day is the best time to go shoe shopping because your feet are at their largest.
Are Flats Better Than High Heels?
As a matter of personal preference, flats and high heels are on par. But, if you're concerned about keeping your feet healthy, happy and comfortable, flats are a better option than high heels. And while they have their upsides, there's also a downside.
Flats are less likely to cause conditions like hammer toe, bunions, or even stress fractures because they distribute your weight evenly over your foot. Obliviously that's a good thing. They're also great for keeping your foot level. Another good thing. The downsides? Most flats have thin soles, provide little or no shock absorption, and have minimal arch support.
Doctor of Podiatric Medicine, Hillary Brenner, likens ballet flats to cardboard: "There’s no arch support whatsoever.” In fact, women who wear unsupportive shoes like these face some risks, starting with overpronation.
Overpronation – when your foot rolls too far inward and your arch collapses – can cause sore feet, and it puts you at higher risk for foot injuries. Other possible problems include knee and hip pain, and plantar fasciitis.
You can increase the support of your flats by:
- Choosing durable leather. While you may think the sole is the most important part of your flat, the shoe itself needs to provide support to the sides of the foot. A strong leather will keep your foot from wobbling around.
- Making sure the flat has a rubber sole. Like heels, flats with rubber soles will provide extra cushion and prevent you from slipping (and falling).
- Putting an insole in your shoe. With their lack of arch support, you'll find that flats are far more comfortable when you add insoles to them. Your feet will have more energy at the end of your day when they are properly supported.
What Are The Best Women's Flats?
Like heels, flats must be purchased wisely. We recommend the following when looking for the most comfortable women's work shoes:
Naturalizer. These flats have thicker, rubber soles and a wide toe box. Naturalizer is an affordable option which is helpful if you need to add multiple pairs to your wardrobe.
Tieks combine style, comfort, and support. They come in countless colors and patterns. They’re also on Oprah’s highly-coveted O-List. They feature thin rubber soles and can fold up to easily fit in your bag.
Earth is another great brand of ballet flats with support. Earth specializes in truly walkable footwear. They have many styles to choose from and are available online and in stores.
Rothys. The newcomers are showing up just about everywhere you look these days. Made from recycled water bottles, they're hand-crafted and machine washable. With a wide variety of styles and colors, there's something for everyone.
Even flats with some support need insoles as the support that is built-in is minimal. Shoe companies are limited in the amount of support they can put into shoes - if they make the arches too high, some customers will find them uncomfortable. So, they make them lower to accommodate the largest number of people. That means even “supportive” footwear is usually not sufficient.
The best insoles for ballet flats will:
- Fully support your arch from front to back. Getting the right level of support from insoles for flats is so important. Firm support is needed to limit pronation and support your arch. Soft foam or gel won't give you the arch support you actually need.
- Provide the perfect fit. Arches come in all different heights, which means the best insoles for ballet flats do too. When you're searching for the right arch support for flats, look for one that offers various arch heights that mimic the height and contours of your arch. That will give you a flawless fit.
- Have a deep heel cup. The fatty pad beneath your heel bone adds cushioning to your foot, decreasing the impact of each step you take. The best insoles for women's flats have a deep heel cup that keeps the fatty pad centered beneath the heel where it absorbs shock effectively, adding to foot stability, improving balance and increasing comfort.
It is possible to combine style and comfort in the workplace. You don’t need to sacrifice comfort for fashion. Wearing proper footwear and taking care of your feet will allow you to perform better on the job. A great pair of insoles can add support to women's flats that need it.
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