Painful Shoes: Types of Shoes That Seriously Hurt Your Feet

There are few things that can ruin your day like a pair of shoes that are painful to walk in. Whether they’re new shoes that you’re trying to break in, or ones that lack proper support that can cause painful foot cramping and other issues, it’s important to be aware of the types of shoes you buy and their potential effect on your health. And it’s not just the sky-high stilettos we’re talking about. Here are six surprisingly painful shoes.

1. Flip flops and sandals

brown flip-flop sandals on a wooden background

Flip-flops and sandals are very uncomfortable. |

Tons of folks opt for sandals and flip flops when they’re off-duty, because nothing says freedom like having your toes out in the open air. Unfortunately, your feet can be in for much more than just fresh air, and it’s mostly due to their lack of support, which ultimately leads to foot pain. “Flip-flops and unsupportive sandals frequently are the cause of foot disorders such as plantar fasciitis, tendon problems, and ankle sprains,” Dr. Neil Scheffler, a podiatrist at Sinai Hospital in Baltimore, told Everyday Health. “Newer biomechanically designed sandals should be chosen over flat flip-flops,” he adds. This means that your go-to sandals should be similar of Birkenstocks that will cradle the foot bed and prevent any foot problems, or if you already have pain, they can help by balancing your foot out and not exacerbating the problem. 

2. Converse-style sneakers

Man tying his shoe

A good pair of sneakers should be in your closet. |

Sneakers causing foot issues? Something doesn’t sound quite right with the world. We’re lead to believe that sneakers are our saviors and one of the only types of shoes that feel great after a long week of wearing stiff brogues. We’re sorry to tell you that these beloved hipster classics can cause heel pain, stress fractures, tendonitis, and inflammation. While Converses can provide cushioning and shock absorption (we’ll give them that), the shoe bed is still pretty flat, which can be bad news for your poor feet. The good news is that Converses and Converse-style sneakers allow you to add extra support to the inside of the shoes — like an insert — to mold them to fit your feet even better.

3. Athletic sneakers

Woman wearing neon pink athletic shoes

Make sure your athletic sneakers are supportive. |

Apparently this sneaker thing gets worse: Your comfortable gym shoes can also be hurting your feet as well, and it’s mostly because you may not be wearing the right shoe for whatever sport you’re participating in. Dr. Suzanne Levine, celebrity podiatrist, told The Huffington Post that you may also be getting carried away with wearing fashionable sneakers that just don’t provide enough cushion. Levine advises that the most important factor in choosing an athletic sneaker is if it feels good, then go for it. However, be aware of too much comfort.

Too much cushion is not the best thing, either,” Dr. Neal Blitz, chief of foot surgery/associate chairman of orthopedics at Bronx-Lebanon Hospital, told The Huffington Post. Blitz added, “When you have a lot of cushion, you’re not getting the foot-brain feedback,” that allows you to sense when your feet are touching the ground. Sneakers can cause chronic stress injuries, focusing mostly on the heel.

4. Shoes that don’t fit

Man with no shoes on

Your shoes need to properly fit. |

If the shoe doesn’t fit … then you’re asking for a problem. When you constantly wear shoes that don’t fit quite right, you’re at risk for developing osteoarthritis, or what’s commonly referred to as “wear and tear” arthritis, which happens when you push off more when you walk in ill-fitting shoes. This type of arthritis is caused by the wearing down of protective cartilage that covers the end of your foot bones, specifically affecting the joints where your toes meet your foot. Dr. Roderick C. Hunter, Jr., a podiatric physician in Harker Heights, Texas, told the American Grandparents Association, “Your feet really take a beating because they are weight bearing. You are flexing your toes all day to push off to walk, so there is over time a slow degradation of cartilage between the two points. You end up with bone-on-bone contact, which is extremely painful.”

Though the pain can come and go, it can become one that is more constant, and can cause swelling or permanent enlargement around your tore joint and joint stiffness.

5. Uggs and other sheepskin-lined boots

Ugg boots

These boots could lead to some nasty foot conditions. | Torsten Blackwood/AFP/Getty Images

If you’re into Uggs and you don’t like to wear them with socks, then you’re risking a fungal infection. “Although the sheepskin is breathable, the humid environment still can lead to a build-up of fungus,” Dr. Lucille B. Andersen, M.D., a foot and ankle surgeon at Webster Orthopedics in the San Francisco area, told Everyday Health. Anderson adds that your Uggs are also not that great for walking long distances due to lack of support, which creates a whole other set of health issues. They’re a great lounging-during-the-winter shoe, though.

6. Rain boots

Woman under umbrella looking at phone

Rain boots aren’t good for your feet. | Ed Jones/AFP/Getty Images

If you wear rain boots when showers show up, know that you may be doing more harm than good in protecting yourself from the rain. Most rain boots are made of heavy materials that, when combined with a moist environment, can breed foot disasters like mold, fungus, bacteria, or wart viruses. In the same story from The Huffington Post, Blitz added, “You sort of walk more like a Stormtrooper, so you just might get more fatigue from walking in them.” Not to mention that the top of the boot can rub against your calf and give you blisters.