Are your cute flats causing your knee pain? Flat shoes don’t cause problems. High heels cause problems. Right? Not so fast.
We’ve known for years that high heels can be the cause of pain by putting additional stress on your knees and the muscles surrounding them. They can also be the culprits of unexplained hip pain and put your back out of alignment. But did you know the same can be true for flats?!
If you have poorly defined arches, or flat feet, your ankles likely pronate a little or a lot. Pronating means your foot and ankle roll inward, and without a supportive shoe it can cause your ankle and knee to be thrown out of alignment which can result in pain and soreness in your ankle and knees. This can and does lead to hip and lower back pain – not to mention Advil and Tylenol. How do I know this? Experience my friends.
Over time pronation can result in inflammation of the anterior and posterior tibial tendons in your ankles and feet and can cause damage to the bones, ligaments and tendons in your feet. According to podiatrist Phillip Vasyli in this article published in Shape Magazine ,”Excess pronation is a condition that affects 75 percent of the population and has been related to many conditions, such as heel pain (otherwise known as plantar fasciitis), knee pain, and even lower-back pain”.
The problem with flats is that they usually have very little if any support. Think flip flops, ballet flats, even sandals and loafers. Most have a thin sole, which don’t provide any shock absorption. Even if there is some type of liner inside the shoe, it doesn’t have adequate arch support. They’re so easy to put on and comfortable around your feet, you think they must be good for you, but without any structure to stabilize your footbed problems can arise.
A good shoe that supports your foot will have a decent sole thickness, meaning you won’t feel the ground you’re walking on. They will also have some type of formed footbed including arch support to keep your foot and ankle from pronating, and possibly a slight depression where your heel hits, to cup your heel, and keep your foot aligned.
If you already have foot, ankle, knee, hip or lower back pain, ditch the flip flops and make an appointment with an orthopedic doctor. Earlier is better. Don’t wait until you can’t bend your knee to see someone. The doctor will examine your feet and ankles. They’ll analyze the way you walk. Some even video tape your gait and can show you how your feet and ankles move when you walk. They should do a full exam and possibly take x-rays. If they recommend orthotics as a solution to your pain problems, there are usually options you can purchase though their office, but check the prices and shop around. It’s often cheaper to get ankle and knee braces, or orthotics, outside of the office, on amazon or at a good shoe store.
If you love wearing flats like I do, you have a couple of options. You can bite the bullet and go shopping for a pair of cute flats that have support built into them already. Below are some links to a few places to help you start your search for supportive flats. You may have to do some footwork (pun intended) to find a “cute” pair that have the support you need. They aren’t all as fashion forward as we’d like, but you can easily find a pair at one of these sites to wear with casual outfits that will ease your pain.
Another option is to buy the shoes you like and separately purchase an orthotic insert to put into them. Sneakers and athletic shoes are fairly easy to fit with inserts. My orthopedist recommended a brand called Super Feet Insoles which you can buy at most good shoe stores or online. They come in several colors indicating several different support structures. They are priced between $44.95 and $59.95.
I’ve found it difficult to put a full size insert into some shoes. But recently I found a great option for a pair of flats I already owned. My local New Balance store offers a “Fashion Orthotic Insert” and you can buy it in store. For some reason it isn’t on their website yet, but if you ask at a store the product number is NB100. I researched it and it is actually made by a company called Aetrex Worldwide Inc. You can buy it here on Amazon. (It just won’t say New Balance.) One pair of these inserts will run you about $45. They are light, fit easily into my flats, and have adhesive dots on the bottoms to make them stay in place. So far they are working out well for me.
We already do a lot of things proactively to take care of our health. We eat right, exercise, and take vitamins. We also need to take proactive measures when it comes to our feet. If we keep them in good shape they’ll be able to take us wherever we want to go for many years to come.
Be well:) And please share if you find a shoe insert that has helped you relieve your knee pain. I’d love to hear about it!