Painful Shoes: Why Those Cute Shoes Are Hurting Your Feet

Painful Shoes: Why Those Cute Shoes Are Hurting Your Feet

Posted by Apex Foot Health on 5th Jan 2023

Our feet are our bodies' foundation. Without them, we couldn't support ourselves, walk around, or remained balanced.

Unfortunately, women experience more foot problems than men due to narrow-fitting shoes as well as high-heels that force their feet into unnatural positions.

Keep reading to find out how cute but painful shoes can affect your health and what you can do about it. 

Styles of Painful Shoes

To be honest, any style of shoe can be painful. Even athletic shoes can cause you problems in the long run.

These are the issues related to each popular type of footwear.

High Heels

High heels are a favorite shoe choice around the world for their ability to make you appear taller with more toned legs.

They come in the form of stilettos, pumps, platforms, and wedges.

Due to the fact that the heel is majorly elevated above the toes, it puts more pressure on your the ball of your foot. Without equal pressure on your heel and footpad, your body gets out of alignment and stress is put on different areas of your body.

This can lead to:

  • Achilles tendinitis
  • Arthritis
  • Blisters
  • Calluses
  • Gait issues related to the knees and hips
  • Morton's Neuroma (i.e. nerve pain)
  • Muscle and tendon strains and tears

Additionally, you become more at risk of falling. Sprains and strains in the foot and ankle are the most common injury with this style of shoe. 

Woman with high heels on while feet outside car window


Whether they're heeled or flat, pointy-toed shoes force your toes into a small space. This space is known as the "toe box".

When you have a smaller toe box, it can irritate existing bunions (i.e. hard tissue on your big toe joint) and can also lead to a condition called hammertoe. This happens when a small toe box forces your toes to curl under permanently.


Mules, or backless shoes, are basically an upgraded sandal. 

This type of shoe makes your toes work harder to keep your shoe on since there's no back support on them. This can lead to tendinitis, the inflammation of your foot tendons. 

Flip Flops and Sandals

While flip flops and sandals are a dreamy summer shoe, it's important to limit your time in them.

Just like mules, these backless shoes make your toes work warder. Additionally, many brands create flip flops and sandals that have little to no arch support. This causes your plantar fascia, a ligament that creates the arch in your foot, to become unsupported and potentially injured.

Athletic Shoes

Athletic shoes are  great in terms of foot support. That being said, it's important to choose that fit the activity you're doing.

Running shoes are different than hiking shoes, for example.

If you're trying to wear athletic shoes all the time, keep in mind that they have a "mileage limit". This means that they should only be worn for about 500 miles before their soft materials wear out.

This might not be acceptable at your workplace, so perhaps flats are a better option.


The most ideal shoes are flats with rubber soles and arch support. 

That way, your heel isn't elevated high above your toes. They allow you to balance your weight evenly and give your feet the relief they need.

Other Problems With Improper Shoes

Aside from painful shoe styles, there are other factors that can cause your shoe to be uncomfortable.

It could be due to your foot anatomy. Some people have wider feet, others have longer feet, and so on. Additionally, you may have preexisting foot conditions like bunions and corns that cause you discomfort.

These factors can lead to blisters, which occurs when you have too much friction from a material rubbing on your skin. 

Luckily, there are a few simple steps you can take to keep your feet healthy.

Physical therapist stretching client's leg

What You Can Do About It

No matter what style of shoe you choose, you'll want to follow these guidelines.

Measure Your Feet

First, get an accurate measurement of your foot size by using this guide. Many foot pains come from wearing the wrong size of shoes.

In general, you want to have room for your toes to extend. This means having at least half an inch of room between your longest toe and the end of the shoe. It also includes having at least a quarter-inch of space on each side of your foot.

This allows your foot to flatten out as you stand or walk without getting squished.

Test the Shoes

With your foot measurement, you can find shoes that actually fit. Be sure to try on new shoes in the evening so that if your feet swell, you can account for that. Stand and walk around in them to try to notice if there are any pressures or tensions.

You should always buy shoes that fit without expecting to break them in or have them stretched. Even with the perfect shoe, many professionals recommend that you switch up your footwear often to allow different muscles to activate.

With these considerations, you can find proper shoes and keep your feet healthy. If you've tried several pairs of shoes from different brands and are still experiencing pain, you may want to consult a podiatrist.

Get Rid of Worn-Out Shoes

With any shoe, it's important to keep an eye on their condition and get rid of them after a few years of wear and tear. Otherwise, they aren't providing the support you need to stay safe.

If you're wearing shoes a regular amount, meaning you aren't wearing them as your only shoe, you can expect them to last for about 3 years. 

Find Your Perfect Fit

Now that you know what makes painful shoes a dangerous choice, you can find your perfect pair and keep your feet healthy.

Stay away from non-supporting shoes, find your  right shoe size, and give your new pair a test run to make sure they're comfortable. You may also want to look for shoes with added features like arch support and soft soles to ensure they won't cause you trouble.

Shop ballet flats now to find all the support you need.