Women’s Shoes: Heels vs Flats

Women’s Shoes: Heels vs Flats

Shoes, shoes, shoes! We all love shoes, right? But the type of shoes we prefer can vary widely from person to person. Someone might like ballet flats, the next person could have a penchant for high heels.

Whatever your preference, it’s important to have choice! So, in some cases a kitten heel might be more suitable, where a wedge heel might be better for someone who isn’t quite so certain on their feet.The same goes for ballerinas, you might prefer a rounded toe with an unstructured heel while others might go for a pointed toe with an ankle strap.

Comfort should always be the biggest reason for choosing a pair of women’s shoes and there are lots of differences between wearing heels and wearing flats, but which is better?

Let’s find out!...

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Heels vs Flats - Health & Fitness

When it comes to exercise, it’s important to make sure that your feet are fully supported. Due to this, you should always wear properly-fitting sports shoes.

When walking in heels, your centre of gravity is altered and naturally all of your weight is supported by the ankle and the ball of the foot. For maximum stability, you need to use the heel to stabilise you too, and flat shoes will allow you to do this.

If you’re more concerned about day-to-day wear and the impact a certain type of footwear can have on your health, you may be surprised to hear that both heels and flats have their disadvantages.

The effects of wearing heels for long periods of time can put undue pressure on the feet and ankles, particularly high heels. Over time, this can lead to degeneration of the joints within the foot - particularly the toes - causing them to alter and bunions to form. Bunions can be extremely painful and can lead to further complications such as blisters and sores. The only way to overcome a bunion is with corrective surgery, so it’s imperative that the shoes you wear are suitable and supportive when it comes to long term wear.

That doesn’t mean wearing flats all the time is without issue, the downside to flat shoes is that that they don’t always offer the correct support to the instep which can cause your arches to fall, the muscle in the soles of your feet can also contract, leading to a condition called plantar fasciitis. Simple supportive insoles can help prevent this.

Bunions aren’t exclusive to heel-wearers either! Constant wear of flat shoes with a pointed toe for example, force the toes into an unnatural position, causing the joins to reposition themselves over time.

Prevention is Better Than Cure

Both types of footwear can cause injury. Heels however can be a little more problematic. Wearing heels daily can cause your Achilles tendon to shrink, putting you at greater risk of an injury when doing activities while wearing flats, including exercises such as jogging. To prevent these sorts of issues, we would recommend alternating between different types of footwear, so it could be that you wear flats to get to and from work, but wear heels around the office. This will also limit the number of hours you spend in heels.

When wearing heels there are few things you can do to help prevent problems:

  • Make sure there’s adequate cushioning at the front of the toe. Remember that there is a large amount of pressure put on your toes so a good level of cushion will help protect against sores and calluses.
  • Ensure there is enough room in the toe box for you to be able to wiggle your toes. A crowded toe box can not only cause bunions but could also encourage issues such as athlete’s foot as the your toes aren’t able to “breathe” properly.
  • We would recommend a heel of two inches or less if you plan to wear them for an extended period of time. Further to this, choose a thicker heel such as a block heel for maximum support.
  • Opting for a slight heel or wedge will encourage your arch to lift, thus encouraging the the tendons in your feet to flex correctly.
  • Avoid wearing shoes that have excessive wear and tear on the heels or the soles, this can cause issues with your walk and not only put pressure on your feet but your legs and back too.
  • Shoes that require “breaking in” aren’t shoes that you’ll want to wear often, shoes should fit well and comfortable from the outset. If there are issues when buying shoes, it’s unlikely those problems will subside.

Not to ignore the perils of wearing flat shoes, here are some tips that could keep your feet happy:

  • As we mentioned, flats can cause issues with fallen arches such as plantar fasciitis if not fully supported. Avoid long term wear of super flat shoes with thin soles as these offer the least support. If you do wear them regularly, invest in a good pair of supportive insoles.
  • If you do develop fallen arches and they’re causing you pain, remedy the situation immediately, continuing to wear unsupportive shoes with the condition can cause tearing of the tendons in the bottom of your feet, a crippling injury that will render you fairly incapacitated for some time.
  • Invest in quality shoes.
  • Make sure they fit properly. Flats that are too tight can cause issues such as ingrown toenails and infections. On the other hand, flat shoes that are too big can become a trip hazard. Your feet also need to be able to “breathe”; if they can’t, it could cause you problems… not to mention stinky shoes!
  • Trade in the flip flops. Flip flops are great when at the beach or chilling by the pool, but they’re not meant to be worn for long periods of time or for walking great distances. Flip flops cause you to walk differently, in a way that isn’t natural for the body; as such, prolonged wear can lead to a whole host of back, knee and hip problems. Swap them for a supportive pair of ladies' sandals that don’t flip or flop off your feet.
  • Ballet flats don’t really offer much shock absorption in the heels, this means your heel bone takes most of the impact when walking. Opt for a shoe that has a wide, low heel instead.

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Are High Heels Better Than Flats?

Though both types of women’s shoes can cause issues, they’re not all bad! There are plenty of advantages to wearing them too!

Shoes with a small heel, for example, are great for realigning your posture, forcing you to stand straighter. Heels that are too high however, can have the opposite effect and cause you to over compensate. Heeled shoes also offer more support for the tendons in the feet, reducing the need to over stretch them as with flat shoes.

Though there’s no real evidence to suggest it’s absolute fact, but there’s strong suggestion that wearing shoes with a heel can also burn more calories! It’s noted that wearing heels strengthens muscles in the lower leg and ankle where wearing flat shoes don’t. Heels are also purported to aid pelvic floor muscles and with core strength.

From an aesthetic point of view, heels are also great for adding a little height if you’re on the shorter side, giving the illusion of longer legs too. Not forgetting the added sex appeal they can add if you so wish! Or if you want to add a dash of sass to your favourite power suit, a good pair of heels is all it takes.

Flat shoes on the other hand should definitely have a place in your wardrobe. Whether that be ballet flats, trainers or sandals. Flat shoes are practical and much more versatile than heels, they’re also a safer option in poor weather. Wearing flat shoes with a low heel will likely be far more comfortable than high heels or extremely flat shoes. This is because the whole of the foot and arch are fully protected without putting too much pressure on sensitive areas such as the toes and heel.

Flats can be dressed up or down and in many cases, a good pair of flat shoes can go with many different styles of outfit with minimal fuss.

Should I Wear Heels or Flats to My Wedding?

This decision is entirely yours, but bear in mind that these are shoes that you’ll be wearing for the whole day, so comfort should always be your biggest priority. The last thing you want is to be distracted by sore feet on your big day!

If you decide that heels are the way forward for you, go for a mid-heel with a decent insole and supportive instep. If you feel that a mid-heel is too much, opting for a kitten heel may be the way to go. Not only do they look feminine and elegant, but kitten heels are perfect if you want to add a vintage vibe without compromising practicality.

Flats can definitely work too! Wearing flat shoes for your wedding has become increasingly popular over the years, with more and more brides steering away from tradition and going for wedding-themed trainers and canvas pumps. If this is more your thing, maybe go for a contrasting colour to really make a statement!

You could always mix it up too, why not choose a heeled pair and a flat pair for your wedding outfit and alternate throughout the day. This way, you know you have back up if needed and you can also vary your look!

Are Heels or Flats More Professional?

The truth is that both can be professional, it’s about knowing what’s suitable and what isn’t. Bright red 5-inch heels with a 2-inch platform probably won’t be seen as the best footwear for the office, nor the most practical.

Heels can however make a real difference to your confidence, but maybe go for a block heel in a neutral colour such as black or navy blue. Your shoes shouldn’t distract from the rest of your attire, particularly if you’re in an interview. Every professional wardrobe should have at least one pair of court shoes in it!

In much the same way, flat shoes can also be professional, but a more structured style with a solid sole and supportive heel would be considered the best option. And like heels, avoid designs that are too distracting, unless you’re in an environment that appreciates slightly more outlandish vibes of course!

Should I Wear Heels or Flats for a Night Out?

Much like your wedding, it all comes down to personal preference. There’s a good chance you’ll spend quite a lot of time on your feet so accommodating for that is a must. As well as the practical aspect, think safety too. If you’re going out for a night on the tiles, and getting a little tipsy is the plan of action, heels probably aren’t going to do you any favours.

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Conclusion

Whether it’s high heels, wedges, court shoes or kitten heels that you’re into, heels are always going to be a firm fashion staple. But opting for flats or trainers isn’t a bad thing either! Keep your shoe collection varied with a selection of both heeled and flat shoes and you won’t go far wrong!

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There’s a place for both heels and flats in your wardrobe, and you can buy them online right here!

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