Those favourite flat shoes may not be good for your feet - Expert

Those favourite flat shoes may not be good for your feet - Expert

Stock image of woman wearing flat shoes.

Rozlyn Gwendo is slowly transitioning from flat shoes to slightly high heeled shoes with a better arch support. Two years ago, she was diagnosed with Plantar Fasciitis, a condition caused by wearing shoes that don’t support your feet well enough.


For decades, Gwendo favoured flat shoes because of their affordability and comfort unaware of the silent damaged it inflicted on her feet.


“I never knew these shoes are hurting my feet, I used to see old women wearing shoes an inch or two high and thought it was for old people only for me to realize how good they are,” says Gwendo. 


In 2017, she would walk a lot and at the end of the day her feet would hurt so bad and the pain would last several days.

“I thought it was my weight, sadly by the time I went to see a doctor the pain was severe. I struggled getting out of bed in the morning, the pain was so bad on the heel and the arch, I knew there was something completely wrong with my feet,” she recalls. 

She was wearing them on her visit to the hospital when the physiotherapist informed her she was suffering from plantar fasciitis , a condition caused by the flat shoes she wore routinely.


“I was advised to wear shoes with an arch support, this was new to me. I did not know that shoes need to have arch support, since it was challenge to make that transition economically, I used insoles with arch support."


She is on a journey to transition and get better feet, one that she describes as painful.


“I wear shoes that are an inch or two high, I try not to walk long distance because every time I do, my feet arch for days. If I know I will be walking long distance, I wear sneakers within arch support,” she told Citizen Digital. 


With very flat shoes the pressure is mostly concentrated on the heel. This can cause us to compensate with our foot muscles and tendons for extra support, which can lead to a condition called Plantar Fasciitis.

Dr Ken Otieno, a physiotherapist, explains this is caused by an inflammation of the tissue between the heel and the arch of the foot.


According to Otieno, flat shoes can strain the Achilles tendon that runs from the back of the heel, and also the calf muscles in the back of the leg. With no shock absorbency and little heel support, there is the added risk of developing a painful heel condition if you wear them constantly.


“Different shoes are for different occasions; flat shoes will be very uncomfortable for people who have weight issues because all of our eight is exerted on the ground hence the discomfort on the heels.  For many people with Plantar fasciitis, the problem is usually at the heel and overtime it spreads to the leg,” he explains. 


The physiotherapist notes that when you wear flat shoes, you limit the movement around the ankle joint which retrains the movement. He adds the right foot wear is very important.

“For those with this condition, I would recommend orthopedic shoes, or a pair of insoles that will increase the arch. These are special supportive insoles and are available in most pharmacists,” he says. 


His advice is to routinely alternate your shoe style- from high to low and avoid wearing a particular shoe day in day out. You can try to wear shoes with better arch support. This applies to men too. 


However, studies have shown that high heel shoes could also make your feet hurt and they aren't good for you.

A study from Harvard showed that women who wear high heels increase their risk of arthritis of the knee by putting pressure on the inner compartment of the knee joint, compressing and damaging it.


“Excessively high heels also put the same strain on the feet, in fact, high heels and completely flat shoes might compromise proper walking. Very high and very low is not recommended, use them occasionally, but a walking show should be moderate height and for the purpose of fashion high heels can be used but for a very short time,” Otieno says. 


Over some time, you develop foot swelling, and back pain because you tend to tilt the pelvic bone.  And shortening of the Achilles tendons. So when you get off the heals to low, you will start having pain and sometimes the tendons can tear.


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