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The other shoe drops: Most are bad for feet

Those cute little roll-up ballet flats women carry in their purses to slide on during foot-pain emergencies have rapidly achieved most-favored streetwear status among millions of them — and worst-footwear status among podiatrists.

When used only for their intended purpose — worn just a few minutes as relief from cramped-up or burning feet, or while deskbound or on a plane — they’re not terrible, foot specialists say. But many women wear the slipperlike coverings, made by several companies and selling for $8 to about $35, as regular shoes,and that’s a problem. “There’s no structure, essentially no sole, they’re too flat, and there’s no support,” says Michele Colon, a podiatrist and shoe blogger in El Monte, Calif.

“They’re just as bad as flip-flops and UGGs” (which have long been on foot doctors’ worst-footwear list), says podiatrist Kendrick A. Whitney of Temple University’s School of Podiatric Medicine.

Fact is, much of the current crop of popular shoes makes podiatrists grimace. Foot deformities, including hammer toe, bunions, heel spurs, plantar fasciitis, and even some ankle, knee, hip and back issues, can arise from long-term wearing of bad footwear, experts say.

Best everyday option for most women: “Something with a 1- or 2-inch heel” that’s well constructed and fits well, says Colon. “You’re giving the foot a little bit of an arch. It puts the body into a normal position for walking.”

Their take on today’s faves:

Sky-high stilettos: “Those shoes that are 4, 5 or 6 inches high put too much pressure on the ball of the foot and shift the center of gravity,” setting the stage for posture adaptations that can lead to ankle, toe and hip issues, says Colon.

Stiletto pumps with thick soles: Better than traditional stilettos. “If you have a 4-inch heel but also a 1½-inch sole, your foot’s closer to the 2-inch heel positioning best for most women,” says Colon.

Flat slip-ons with glovelike fit for toes: They’re made for those who believe running barefoot is the best approach (a debated position) but are sometimes being worn as street shoes. “I’d rather see my patients wear them than go completely barefoot,” says Colon, “but it’s not the support they need.” This summer, the U.S. Army banned soldiers from wearing the toe-shoes during training. Reason: they detract from a military image.

Curved-bottom or rocker-bottom walking shoes: Colon doesn’t like them, partly because “they’re not living up to the claims” that they’ll sculpt butts, but also because some people are unstable in them and fall. Whitney, however, actually recommends them for some people who need to reduce pressure on areas of their feet.

If you are bent on wearing shoes that raise podiatrists’ eyebrows, stretch. Whitney says you can combat or minimize some of the ill effects of minimalist shoes by doing calf stretches, which can help all the connected body parts. Colon says that foot and toe stretches can help everyone, especially women who wear very high heels often.

Both offer this advice: Don’t wait until you’re in excruciating pain before seeing a podiatrist. Says Whitney: “There are things we can recommend to help women select shoes right for their particular feet that reduce stress, provide comfort, don’t change weight patterns and still are fashionable.” ( share from yourlife.usatoday.com/health )