You are likely in one of two camps regarding dress shoes:
- They are another way to express your style, and you love every chance to slip some on and get out into the world.
- Argh, ugh, dress shoes, no. Can’t you just wear sneakers instead? Who even looks at another person’s shoes, anyway? That was in a movie, so it’s gotta be true!
Regardless of your feelings on fancier footwear, it’s an inevitability that you will have to wear them at several points through life. Maybe they’re a work requirement, or maybe you just know a lot of people who get married.
The type of footwear choices you make can have a huge impact on the health and comfort of your feet, and heel pain is a big factor. If heel pain is already a problem for you, you want to find shoes that will keep you as comfortable as possible. And if you don’t have heel pain, you want to find shoes that will help things stay that way!
What Makes Dress Shoes So Tough on Heels?
For a type of shoe that you may be required to wear for 40-hour work weeks, many dress shoes just aren’t built for long-term comfort.
There is definitely a “style over substance” issue at work here. Many dress shoes don’t include as much of the cushioning that more casual shoes contain, which adds to the stress on your feet.
And when style includes shapes that aren’t normal for our feet, it just compounds the potential for problems.
We are not just talking about high heels here, although they are definitely among the top offenders for the way they force weight and pressure against the front of the foot.
There are also shoes with small or pointed toe boxes that force the front of the foot to squish together. And—especially bad for heels—are dress shoes that distort the arch of the foot and provide little support in that area.
Extra stress on the arch—whether from flattening, tilting, or forced bending—can particularly strain the plantar fascia. This is a thick band of tissue that runs along the underside of each foot from the heel bone to the base of the toes. It flexes while we move, helping to propel us forward, and naturally supports the arch as well.
When the plantar fascia is strained, however, it can develop tiny tears that lead to pain and inflammation. This is known as plantar fasciitis. You might feel it after a long day of work, but it’s especially likely when you get up in the morning or after getting up from a long period of sitting at your desk.
It isn’t enough for dress shoes to be bad for your feet, either. If you have an abnormality in your foot structure—often inherited by your family line—it can make the problem even worse. Flat feet and high arches can both contribute to heel pain if your shoes are not accommodating for it.
How to Get Dress Shoes that Won’t Murder Your Heels
When dress shoes are a necessary evil (depending on your mood), you can still take significant steps to reduce the havoc they can wreak on your heels. Here are some tips for finding a good match for your feet.
- Keep heels low, but not flat. High heels are no good—especially for long periods of time! However, shoes that are absolutely flat will also place strain on your arches. A heel of 2 inches or less (but not zero) tends to be a good middle ground.
- Support the arch! A thin, hard, rigid sole is going to ail your arches. If there is not much arch support in your shoes, either find a pair that comes with it or consider the use of orthotic inserts to add more comfort. If you have an abnormality in foot shape or gait, custom-made orthotics may be the preferable option.
- Support the heel, too. The heel counter is the area that adds support to the heel cup of the shoe, and often hugs the heel to keep your foot in the shoe as well. The older we become, the thinner the protective fat pads on our heels become and the more cushioning we need in this area. Added heel grip support can also help if the backs of your shoes are rubbing against you, but it’s usually a better idea to find a pair of shoes that don’t slide on you in their original state.
- Never compromise on fit. If a shoe does not feel good, never wear it! There is no “breaking in” period, and trying to stretch your shoes out just doesn’t work that well. If the fit doesn’t work at the store, it’s not going to work in the real world, either. If online shopping is your only or preferred option, always opt for the size of your larger foot, if applicable.
Address Heel Pain Before It Gets Worse
Sometimes, a change in footwear is all you need to get rid of heel pain. Other times, however, it’s only part of a bigger treatment picture.
If your heel pain doesn’t improve after a change in dress shoes, or it doesn’t improve enough, that’s time to give us a call at Brook Valley Podiatry. It’s time to get to the root cause of your heel pain and recommend a treatment plan that best suits your individual needs.
Our Spring Valley office is here for all who have foot and ankle needs. Schedule an appointment by calling us at (845) 352-7507 or by filling out our online contact form.