fashion

This is what your favourite shoes are doing to your feet.

Image: iStock

Open any woman’s closet (with her permission, of course) and there’s a 96.3 per cent chance you’ll find a pair of ballet flats in there.

They’re versatile, they’re usually pretty affordable, they don’t have any fiddly straps, and they make you feel like you’re capable of pirouetting from one end of the country to the other (even when your ballet abilities are, um, completely non-existent).

How to make sure your next pair of heels won’t hurt like hell

More importantly, we’ve long believed our trusty ballet flats were the most foot-friendly shoes on the market; a gentle alternative to those notorious weapons of torture, stilettos. Well, nope. We were wrong about that.

“With the increase of ballet flats as the primary choice of footwear in females these days, there has been an increase of ingrown toenails or foot problems presenting in podiatry clinics around the world,” explains Melbourne-based podiatrist Laura Gleich, corroborating a frankly terrifying Daily Mail report from earlier this week.

"Ballet flats that are too tight across the toes and ball of the foot increase the pressure on the toenails and nail beds. As the toes and nails themselves have little, if not no, room for movement, the nails are often encouraged to bend and curl inwards."

If the nail pierces the skin, an infection can occur. In particularly severe cases, this infection can lead to... amputation. Yep. As in, your toe could be forcibly removed from your foot.

As if that wasn't bad enough, ingrown toenails are just the start of a long list of ballet flat-inflicted woes. Archilles tendon issues, corns, tired, aching arches, bruised heels and nails that curl inwards, along with a general 'clawing' of the foot can also result from long-term wear.

Image via Flickr
ADVERTISEMENT

"Sloppy ballet flats that don’t hold on to the foot enough encourage the toes to claw on to the shoe so you don’t lose it while walking; this clawing can become more permanent in the long run," Laura explains.

What are “neutral feet” and do you have them?

All of these issues arise from the design of the shoe. Ballet flats typically lack support and cushioning for the foot, and the small distance between the sole and the ground means there's not much in the way of comfort. It makes sense - any shoe that can be easily bent in half can't be great for your feet, can it?

If you live in your ballet flats, you're probably feeling a bit betrayed right now. I completely feel you there - as they say, it's the ones you love that hurt you the most.

Are ballet flats bad for your feet
Image via

However, you can have your ballet flats and wear them too; when you're shopping for your next pair, Laura recommends keeping an eye out for the following features:

A bit of a heel, so your foot isn't completely flat on the ground

ADVERTISEMENT

One that isn't so flexible it can bend in half

Adequate room across the toes to reduce pressure on your nails

Inbuilt cushioning in the forefoot and heel of the shoe

Of course, cutting the amount of time you spend traipsing around in flimsy flats will also help, but you don't have to banish them from your life altogether.

"I'm not one to say 'never do this or wear that' - ballet flats are okay in moderation and for limited walking; however, if you start to experience any negative side effects, cut back the amount of time you spend in them, or look for a more suitable shoe," Laura says.

“My $13 runners cost me my big toenails.”

"If you are starting to feel any pinching in the corners of your toes, particularly the large toes, check for curling inwards at the edges and make sure you are cutting your nails straight across."

As always, if you're really worried about the effect your ballet flats are having on your feet, make an appointment with your local podiatrist.

Do you wear ballet flats? Have they ever hurt your feet?

On the topic of shoes - here are some of our favourite on-screen shoe moments:

00:00 / ???