Choosing the right shoes to avoid 'Ugly Feet'

wide fit black snakeskin effect heels

A recent article in Australian newspaper The West Australian gave an interesting insight into how certain footwear can cause a myriad of issues for feet, ultimately creating 'Ugly Feet', as the article was so named.

As a shoe designer and founder of Sargasso & Grey, who has wide feet and has done a certain amount of irreparable damage to her feet by squeezing said wide feet into too narrow shoes, and is therefore very familiar with 'ugly feet', I read this article with great interest. Therefore I felt it worth sharing some of the key learnings from the article, as well as offering advice as to how some of our shoes can help remedy some of the issues women face when looking for fashionable yet practical shoes.

We all know that it is bad for your feet to spend too much time in high heels. What isn't so well known is that flat shoes such as ballet flats (and yes, we know they are so comfy!) can be just as bad, as can flip-flops.

In this article Australian Podiatry Association ambassador and University of Western Australia lecturer Dr Sarah Carter highlights some of the key problems that certain types of footwear causes, she also gives advice as to which shoes are best to help prevent painful long-term foot issues.  

Why stilettos are bad for your feet

Dr Carter says of all the types of heels women can wear, stilettos are the worst for the feet.

"The heel has a very narrow base of support‚ so all of that force from your whole body weight is going through a very narrow base of support, which makes you incredibly unstable," she explains. Furthermore, "pointed-toe stilettos can lead to some neuropathic changes to the nerves resulting in nerve damage in that region." Ouch!

So why do women love wearing stilettos? Well, because they, "elongate the legs, make the buttocks appear perkier and even give the calves a more toned appearance".

Podiatrist Karen Lyra, a continuing professional development co-ordinator at Podiatry WA, says a stiletto shoe puts a great deal of pressure on the ball of the foot by forcing the toes into the toe box and also can be unstable at the ankle due to the narrow width of the stiletto heel. 

"A high heel can cause or may worsen many foot problems including corns, hammertoe, bunions, Morton's neuroma and plantar fasciitis," she reveals.

But the problems extend beyond the foot, with Ms Lyra saying they have been shown to cause an increase in stress on the ankles, knees and ball of the foot by limiting the natural motion of the foot during walking. 

'High heels can also cause the calf muscle and Achilles's tendon to shorten and stiffen. This can create problems when shoes without heels are worn. High heels can cause the back to go out of alignment," she says.

The benefits of wearing wide fitting shoes

It's not just the heel height that causes foot issues. It is also really important to ensure that the toe box is wide enough to properly accommodate the width of the foot.

According to Dr Carter ‚"Narrow toe boxes have been found to restrict the movement in the front of your foot, so what we call our forefoot, and that increases a lot of stress and loading around that area." 

Dr Carter continues, In addition "[narrow toe boxes] can also cause a lot of corns and callouses around the toes, and also toe deformities as well."

These deformities include hammer, claw and mallet toes. Google these terms and see the damage you could be doing to your feet!

Sargasso & Grey specialise in wide fitting footwear but what is perhaps unique about our shoes is that they are only wide in the toe box. This is because most women only require extra width in this area. Furthermore, it is important that the heel cup of the shoe is snug enough to keep the heel in the shoe. If the heel keeps coming out of the shoe, the wearer will find themselves using their toes in a claw like fashion to keep the shoes on the foot. This will force the feet further into the end of the toe box and can cause corns, blisters or worse, bunions and hammer toes.

Using bespoke shoe moulds, all of Sargasso & Grey shoes have extra wide toe boxes but standard fittings for the heel up.

Shoes with a wide fitting toe box allow extra space for toes to wriggle!

Why flat shoes can be bad for feet

Whilst stilettos lead the way as key culprit in the creation of painful feet, you may be surprised to learn that at the other end of the shoe spectrum, flats are just as bad

Ballet flats

Dr Carter, whose PhD was in dance research, says ballet flats are awful for the feet. "Ballet flats were traditionally designed for dancing and not designed for walking," she explains. "They are pretty much just a piece of leather around your foot and the sole is not stiff at all. Shoes should have some stiffening within the sole so you have a shank in a shoe."

"It puts a lot of force through your foot so if you're in a profession where you're on your feet all day and you're walking on concrete or very hard floors, ballet flats are the worst shoes you could wear. They potentially can cause bunions depending on the person's foot shape and the type of ballet flat they are wearing.

Ballet flats are generally a lot tighter around the foot and often curled. This means you're having to stretch them out, which Dr Carter says can cause a lot of friction blisters.

Pumps are a good alternative to ballet flats. The small heel provides a platform between your feet and the street! Check here our range of flats and pumps.

Slides and Flipflops

With these types of shoes, wearers are having to grip the shoes to keep them on their foot, which Dr Carter says will cause the feet to fatigue, as the muscles are being overworked.

Sandals with a fastening around the ankle or over the footbridge are a much better choice as they secure the foot in the shoe and mean the toes don't have to grip the sole to in order to heel the shoes on the feet.Sandals that have straps to keep feet secure are a good alternative to flipflops

The benefits of a block heel

A block heel is better for your feet than stilettos because of their greater base of support, according to Dr Carter.‚ "The force is being spread out over a greater area," she adds.

Ms Lyra says a broader heel is preferred as the wider base of the heel is essential for stability and safety.nude leather court shoes for wide feetBlock heels help with stability

If you are lucky enough to have beautiful looking and healthy feet then it is important to keep them that way. This means thinking about the shoes you are wearing and making sure that you are not slowing causing damage to your feet.

Dr Carter says, "A lot of women will sacrifice comfort for the look of the shoe and design and what's in fashion and it does get harder to accommodate your foot with those features as you get older because the effects of wearing the shoes long term make it very difficult to continue wearing them in the future."

Sargasso & Grey offer a number of styles of shoe with block heels. In addition, all of our new closed styles have arch supports and all have padded leather insoles for extra comfort.

Full article written for The West Australian is available to read here

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