When Victoria Beckham famously traded her stilettos in favor of comfy white sneaks—claiming she just “can’t do heels anymore”—the world applauded her for adopting a more down-to-earth footwear M.O. (And, let’s be real, we all scooped up a few new pairs in celebration.)
But wearing flat sneakers 24/7 doesn’t mean you’re automatically destined for pain-free peds. According to Jackie Sutera, DPM, a New York City-based podiatric physician specializing in the prevention and treatment of foot pathology, foot issues aren’t so much about shoe style as they are how much you’re wearing your go-to pair of kicks.
“Everyone is born with a fat pad at the bottom of their foot–think of that chubby, bottom part of a baby’s foot—but, over time, the overuse of ‘bad’ shoes wears it down,” Sutera explains. “So while heels definitely do that to you, it may be more surprising to know that flats and unsupportive sneakers will cause that fat pad to wear down just as quickly.”
This means that while Beckham—along with most of the athleisure-loving female population—may have made the switch to Stan Smiths, simply ditching heels isn’t enough to save feet from painful things like inflammation, tendonitis, and pinched nerves. And living solely in your favorite flats can do just as much damage.
“It may be surprising to know that flats and unsupportive sneakers will cause [your foot’s] fat pad to wear down just as quickly [as heels].”
The cure? Make sure to mix up your footwear, says Sutera.
“Sneakers are comfortable and now fashionably complete a look, so I’m not saying you have to sacrifice your style,” Sutera explains. “But don’t wear them on the walk to the subway, and then all day at work, and then all night to go out—and the same goes with flats and heels.”
She suggests alternating your trend-driven kicks with super-supportive options—they do exist!—or buying a supportive insert that can seamlessly slip into any shoe, like Vionic orthotics.
If it means we get to hold on to our go-to Adidas low-tops, that’s a pretty small price to pay.
Looking for a supportive option to add to your shoe collection? Here are six super-comfy options that are also seriously stylish.
Ecco Soft Oxford Sneaker, $150
Another pain that’s no fun to deal with? PMS. But there’s hope: Alisa Vitti, AKA the hormone whisperer, explains how to never have those icky symptoms again. (Or you could try eating more magnesium or putting weed in your vagina.)