Are Flat Shoes Good for Your Feet?

There are many types of shoes out there, and each one serves a different purpose.

When it comes to working shoes, dress shoes, or just something you can quickly slip on to the store, flat shoes often win because they’re quick, easy, and cheap. 

But are flat shoes good for your feet, or do they cause more damage than good? This article is dedicated to answering that question! 

Here’s everything you need to know about wearing flat shoes, including the benefits, risks, and considerations for buying appropriate shoes. 

What Are the Benefits of Flat Shoes? 

You certainly won’t be likely to run a marathon in flat shoes, but they have certain advantages. 

Flat shoes are often attractive and easy to get on and off quickly. In many cases, they can also be quite versatile, doubling up as both smart and casual shoes. 

Generally, they’re more affordable and lightweight as there’s less cushioning underfoot. 

However, the flat surface may help to distribute body weight evenly and prevent placing excess strain on the forefoot, and it can also help to relax the calf muscles. 

What Are the Risks of Wearing Flat Shoes? 

While there are some benefits of flat shoes, the cons outweigh the pros. Are flat shoes good for your feet? These risks seem to indicate otherwise. 

Joint Impact 

Flat shoes usually have no cushioning and no support, leaving your joints open to jarring as every step causes vibrations to travel up your leg. 

This affects your feet, and the ankle, knee, and even the hips. However, your feet are the most affected and can be permanently damaged over time if this continues. 

This may lead to chronic pain, gait issues, and lifelong foot problems. 

Ankle Injuries 

As there’s little to no arch support and even less ankle support in flat shoes, your chances of rolling an ankle while walking are higher. 

This puts you at risk of seriously hurting your ankles—both the joint and the soft tissue—by spraining or even breaking the ankle. 

Plantar Fasciitis 

The lack of support in flat shoes places more strain on the plantar fascia, leading to plantar fasciitis

This is a painful foot condition, and it will be made worse if you continue to wear shoes with no support. 

Knee Pain 

If you overpronate or underpronate, flat shoes will not offer enough support. As a result, your feet may roll inwards or outwards too much, causing rotational pressure on the knee joint. 

If this isn’t rectified, it can lead to permanent damage or conditions such as tendonitis, bursitis, or even stress fractures. 

Achilles Tendinopathy 

Tendinopathy is a chronic form of tendinitis. If you’re wearing flat shoes often, the most likely form of tendonitis you’ll experience is Achilles tendonitis. 

This occurs due to the foot flattening when you walk due to a lack of support. Over time, the unnatural motion of the foot places extra stress on the Achilles tendon. 

This can lead to inflammation of the tendon and the surrounding tissues, leading to pain, swelling, and redness. 

Morton’s Neuroma 

Morton’s neuroma is a foot condition that causes pain in the ball of the foot due to a thickened or inflamed metatarsal nerve. 

This often happens due to flat shoes with small toe boxes, which compresses the toes and doesn’t allow them space to spread out naturally. 

You may think that flat shoes will help to not place pressure on the forefoot, which is true—but while flat shoes don’t have a heel-to-toe drop, they don’t offer enough support to help ease the pain of Morton’s neuroma. 

What Are Some Important Considerations When Purchasing Flat Shoes? 

Although there are risks to wearing flat shoes, it doesn’t mean you need to give them up forever. However, you will need to pay attention to these important considerations when buying a pair of flat shoes. 

Cushioning and Shock Absorption 

The flat shoes you choose should provide a cushioned footbed. This padding underfoot is comfortable and offers shock absorption, which will protect your joints and soft tissues from jarring. 

Cushioning absorbs the vibrations of every step and returns those vibrations to the ground as “energy return.” That way, much fewer vibrations reach your joints to cause jarring. 

Flat shoes with no cushioning can be dangerous, but those with cushioning are acceptable to wear. 

Arch Support 

Arch support is essential for foot and joint safety. If your arch isn’t supported, it places strain on the plantar fascia and can lead to plantar fasciitis. 

It also leads to increased pronation, which places stress on the knees and can damage both the knees and the feet. 

The shoes you choose should have adequate arch support for your feet. It’s important to note that shoes with arch support will not feel flat when you put them on. 

There will be a noticeable bump or dome in the footbed, which should sit right in the area of your arch to provide excellent support. 

Ankle Support 

To avoid potentially turning your ankle while walking, you should try to find a pair of shoes that offers some ankle support. 

Flat shoes like flip flops or ballet flats provide no ankle support. However, this can leave you open to an ankle injury, so it’s a good idea to look for a pair of flat shoes that also offers support around the ankle. 

Size 

Your shoes need to fit comfortably. Shoes that are too big or too small will alter your gait and can lead to injury or pain as you start to walk unnaturally. 

You will also need to make sure that the shoes you choose have a spacious, comfortable toe box that will allow your toes to splay naturally. 

This will prevent friction that could lead to blisters and prevent inflammation due to the forefoot being compressed. 

Foot Type 

Everybody’s feet are different, so comfortable shoes for you may not be comfortable for someone else. 

Your arch type, gait, and activities you do will determine the right kind of arch support and cushioning for your feet. 

The best way to find out what you need for your feet is to visit your podiatrist. However, staff at shoe shops should be able to assist you with some information. 

How Can You Prevent Problems With Flat Shoes? 

You can wear flat shoes if you are careful and thoughtful about wearing them. Here are some ways you can prevent problems that occur due to flat shoes. 

Choose Shoes With Cushioning 

You don’t need to choose shoes with a very thick sole, although a thick outsole will also offer extra shock absorption. 

However, the midsole and insole of the shoes should be soft and padded, which will absorb shock and improve the shoes’ comfort. 

Choose Flats With Arch Support 

As well as good cushioning, there should be firm but comfortable arch support in your flats. 

This will align the joints, which will reduce your chance of injury to both the foot and the knee as your leg joints will be aligned from the bottom up. 

Consider Purchasing Orthotic Inserts 

Orthotic inserts—or insoles—can help provide the support you need while allowing you to wear flat shoes. 

You can buy over-the-counter insoles or get a custom-made orthotic by a podiatrist, which will be designed exactly for the shape of your foot. 

Choose Flats with Removable Insoles 

To use orthotics comfortably, you should choose a flat shoe with a removable insole. 

This will allow you to take out the shoe’s insole to make space for custom orthotics or OTC insoles that can mold to the shape of your foot and provide support and cushioning. 

Make Sure You Have a Wide Toе Box 

A wide toe box will prevent friction and chafing, leading to blisters. You will also have plenty of space for your toes to splay, so they won’t be cramped or painful. 

Use Plasters to Prevent Chafing 

If there are any areas of the flat shoes that chafe, you can use plasters or moleskin to act as a soft barrier between the two parts that are chafing. 

Wear Them Sparingly 

The best way to prevent foot problems from wearing flat shoes is to wear them sparingly. Even if they have support and cushioning, they are usually not as protective as athletic shoes, sneakers, or work boots.