In 2023 (and surely heading into 2024), ballet flats are majorly trending. Seen on the feet of celebs, street-style stars and editors alike, the barely-there style is nearly inescapable at the moment. But if you’ve ever worn ballet flats, you know they’re not the most supportive shoe out there, which got us thinking: What do podiatrists—for whom foot health is always top of mind—think about the trend? We checked in with Dr. Najwa Javed, podiatrist and founder of shoe brand E’MAR Italy, for her thoughts on whether or not we should be rocking flats.
Here’s What a Podiatrist *Really* Thinks About Ballet Flats
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Meet the Expert
Najwa Javed, DPM, MPH, AACFAS, is a board-certified podiatrist with Silicon Valley Podiatry Group and the founder of the shoe brand E’MAR Italy. Dr. Javed holds a Bachelor’s of Science in Biochemistry/Ethno-Anthropology from the University of Oklahoma, a Master’s of Public Health in Biostatistics/Clinical Research from the University of North Texas Health Sciences Center and a Doctorate of Podiatric Medicine from Samuel Merritt University.
1. How Does a Podiatrist Feel About Ballet Flats from a Foot Health Standpoint?
With a few exceptions, they’re not the best. “Given the popularity of ballet flats, you would like a podiatrist to love them, but the truth is that they are not recommended for prolonged walking or standing,” Dr. Javed reveals, adding that the soles of these trending styles are very flat, too flexible and have no side-to-side support. Even though you might feel fine in your beloved flats while you’re wearing them, “Over time they can cause pain, especially after prolonged weight bearing and walking.” And said pain isn’t limited to your feet; Dr. Javed explains that the inherent lack of support in ballet flats can lead to undue strain on the arch of the foot, leg muscles and even lower back, potentially causing conditions like arch pain, plantar fasciitis, Achilles tendonitis and back pain.
2. Are There Any Upsides to Ballet Flats?
Though they’re not ideal for prolonged use, not all hope is lost—ballet flats can be good for people who suffer from big toe joint pain (like from arthritis), and can’t tolerate a heel, Dr. Javed tells us. “[Ballet flats are] also good for people with hammer toes, because the rounded toe box is more comfortable than a classic pointed toe.” She also says that the flat soles can also help with better proprioception (the body’s ability to sense its location, movement and actions) when walking, especially if you have weak ankles. “Wearing flats such as these are usually recommended to help with balance and proper gait training.”
3. Are There Any Specific Features to Look Out for in a Pair of Ballet Flats to Make Them Healthiest for Your Feet?
Per Dr. Javed, the features that make ballet flats healthiest for your feet are:
- “They have a stable and stiff sole that only bends at the toe box—this feature helps to support the arch of your foot and reduces strain on your plantar fascial band.”
- “They have a good, padded insole. The more padding the insole has the better shock absorption is noted through the foot, decreasing bone injury from pounding on pavement.”
- “They have a slight heel; ballet flats that have a slight heel or elevation help reduce the tension on the posterior chain (lower back muscles) and can help with reducing back pain.”
4. Are There Any Ballet Flat Alternatives for Happier and Healthier Feet?
If you love the look of ballet flats but don’t want to risk aches and pains, Dr. Javed tells us that even a tiny heel (we’re talking a half-inch to one-inch heel) can make a world of difference when it comes to the health of your feet. Check out some of our favorite not-quite-ballet flats below, all of which are just as chic as less supportive models.