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The hidden health hazards of ballet flats

Nowadays, pretty much every girl has a designer pair of ballet flats, if not two or three, tucked away in her closet. Uh, Tory Burch, anyone?

While some girls slip them on for an afternoon of shopping or running errands around town, others simply have them stashed in their desks or cars to give their feet a break after a long day or night in heels. But are ballet flats really as safe for your soles as you assumed they were? Foot doctors say nuh-uh.

“Many women think flats are a safer and more comfortable option [than heels]; however, what they don’t know is that shoes that are totally flat and have super-thin soles offer little to no cushioning, shock absorption or arch support,” notes NYC-based podiatrist Dr. Daniel Drapacz. When ballet flats are worn fairly frequently over an extended period of time, not only will your feet begin to ache, so might other parts of your body, believe it or not.

“Thin soles that lack arch support can eventually cause your feet to roll inward, stretching ligaments and tendons, and creating pain all the way up to your knees and possibly your hip,” warns Drapacz. If your arch collapses, which is a very real possibility for any die-hard flat fan, you might wind up with a very painful condition called plantar fasciitis that triggers an achy, burning sensation along the bottom of feet, making it difficult to walk.

Other potential problems that could result from a dependence on ballet flats? Tendonitis, stress fractures, inflammation and even back pain, not to mention the fact that a nail, tack or other potentially dangerous object could literally puncture your shoes and pierce right through your feet. Ouch!

Drapacz says, “If you’re shopping for a pair of ballet flats, a good test is if you can fold it up and stuff it in your purse, it’s not a shoe that you should be putting on your feet.” At least not for extended periods of time, that is. While roll-up flats weren’t exactly made for long walks, they are a great emergency shoe to have on hand just in case, points out Santa Monica-based podiatrist and CEO of Foot Products Enterprises, Inc, Dr. Steven L. Rosenberg, DPM. “Think of them as spare tires; you throw them on at the end of the evening when your feet are absolutely killing you,” but you don’t depend on them to go the distance.

Midtown Manhattan podiatrist, Dr. Jacqueline M. Sutera, DPM, strongly agrees. “They’re more like, ‘Ah get me out of my heels so I don’t step on pebbles or get splinters type of shoes.’ Whatever roll-up flat you can get that has the thickest sole and is constructed of natural materials though is your best bet,” she advises.

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