We’ve been giving side-eye to the age-old concept that beauty (or style) is pain for, well, ever. Because in no way should you ever sacrifice comfort and happiness for the sake of fashion. Can I get a YES? Great. Alas, even so, there are standard items—in the shoe department especially—that inherently come with a side of soreness.
To be honest, you’re probably well-versed in some of the basic shoe trends that are bad for your feet (ahem, sky-high pumps). But what about the other classic shoes that are stocked in all of our closets? To assess the specific shoes that could cause the most pain and damage, we went straight to an expert by tapping Benjamin Tehrani of Kings Point Foot & Ankle in Los Angeles.
What’s interesting is that he didn’t just advise on the silhouettes that will cause the most pain; he actually ranked the basic shoes we all own from good to straight-out horrendous. Intrigued? Keep scrolling to check out the doctor-endorsed rank list (starting with the best first) and see where your favorite shoes fall on the spectrum. If you’re looking to upgrade your offering with some of the top shoe styles, we curated a range of fresh silhouettes that fit in the most comfortable categories to shop as well.
1. Excellent: Chunky Sneakers
"First and foremost, I have to mention 'dad' shoes that are in style now. These have to be the best for your feet out of all of the styles. They provide excellent support for your feet—just make sure they're not too small. The outer soles are typically made of material that has more support for people who walk a lot or stand for hours at work." — Benjamin Tehrani
2. Great: Ankle Boots
"Make sure to buy leather booties if you can as they'll help protect against blisters, especially when you're wearing no-show socks. The premise behind why I like these is that typically the zip at the ankle provides support in the ankle joint and in the subtalar joint, which is the joint under our ankle joint that helps keep our feet in a correct position." — Benjamin Tehrani
3. Good: Mules
Photo:Szymon Brzóska/The Style Stalker
"Mules are so popular nowadays. My patients love them since they're comfortable to wear and the easy slip-on style makes it convenient. I think there's support in the architecture of the insole that even allows you to walk in them while you run errands or even working around the office. Their comfort comes from the fact that there's no heel to rub against, which is why people love wearing them so often. The heel height is low, which means you put less pressure on the balls of your feet, which can help prevent metatarsalgia—inflammation in the ball of the foot typically caused by excess pressure and tightness in the calves." — Benjamin Tehrani
"They're not the best for your feet, but recently there have been numerous companies that have come out with flip-flops with an embedded orthotic inside, which gives your feet the arch support they need on the daily. I LOVE the brand Vionic. Each one of its sandals and flip-flops has a support insole with a built-in orthotic that helps prevent excessive motion in the foot, which is important because the less motion we create in our feet and ankle, the less tired our tendons and tissues feel at the end of the day. I wear my Vionics while doing work at home in my office. I have a stand-up desk and I'm normally capable of standing and doing work for over an hour in those. Otherwise, typical flip-flops such as Havianna's aren't great for your feet. But if you're using them one to two hours at a time, I don't think there's a really big problem with them." — Benjamin Tehrani
5. Not Great: Ballet Flats
"These offer very little plantar fascia support. It's almost as if you were walking in Vibram shoes. Your fascia is the connective tissue that supports your feet as you walk, and too much tension in the fascia can lead to tendonitis, plantar fasciitis, and even arthritis in the feet long term." — Benjamin Tehrani
6. Really Not Great: Stilettos
"These cause excess plantarflexion in the ankle, which forces your foot to look down more. You place more of the weight on the ball of the feet, which can cause metatarsalgia. Wearing these for hours at a time can cause constriction of the toes together, which is what causes bunions and hammertoes. If you're going to wear high heels, wear heels that have side panels you can at least fit a custom insert in them and give your feet the support they deserve! I've operated on many feet that have been exposed to hours upon hours of use during work hours. I've even seen fractures of the metatarsal bones due to wearing stilettos for hours. I think it's important to choose a stiletto that fits well, doesn't rub against your big toe, has support around the heel (versus the stilettos without panels on the side of the heel). I tell all the women who I know are still going to wear stilettos, to just wear them for dinners and weddings. A better alternative would be to wear a heel with a wedge or keep the heel height less than three inches if possible."— Benjamin Tehrani