In ballet flats, you’re not teetering on spiked heels and pressing your foot into tight toes. Your feet are planted firmly on the ground in a shoe that has a lot of give. What's not to like?
The "give" is precisely the problem.
"Ballet flats generally lack support, lack cushioning, and don’t allow the foot to function the way it should," Shapiro says. "They’re an improvement on the flip-flop in that they protect the foot, but they carry the same risk of tendonitis, plantar fasciitis, and all the other things you see with lack of support. They’re just not meant for everyday wear."
The solution: You can choose a flat that resembles a ballet flat but has a real sole and support around the heel counter (the part of the shoe that wraps the heel). A good test: If you can fold it up and stuff it in your purse, it’s a shoe that doesn’t give you much support.
"I see a lot of problems with backless shoes," Shapiro says. "The toes start to grab the shoe to get support, and a lot of women wind up with hammertoes because of that. You can also develop calluses or breaks in the skin because the shoe is constantly tapping the heel.
Well-designed, well-fitted athletic shoes are always good, of course, but for daily office wear, Shapiro recommends either a dressy flat or a pump with no more than a 1-1.5 inch heel. "You’re looking for good support around the heel counter, a good arch support, and a wider toe box," he says. "Ideally, there’s also a lace or buckle closure to support the foot."
"Hundreds of millions of dollars of research come down to the fact that if shoes feel comfortable when you put them on, they’re probably OK. But if they hurt, you shouldn’t wear them," Anderson says. "It’s really that simple."