Ah, summer. Time for vacations, long walks on the beach, BBQ block parties… and the annual flare-ups of pain in your knees, feet, hips, and back. Is it the weather that brings out the worst in our lower extremities… or could it be a lack of supportive flats?
Flat shoes, be they cute canvas numbers or boat shoes, are a go-to choice for summer fun footwear. But it’s important to be mindful of what activities you do in them- and whether your feet have the support that they need. We will discuss casual flats, however keep in mind the mary-jane type of shoe as well. Low profile flats are a go to in the summer and can cause the same pain issues. Fun Fact: Mary Jane shoes became popular from a cartoon character Buster Brown and his sister Mary Jane. In the 1960s it took off with the adult woman.
Can Flats Really Cause Pain?
Okay: let’s think back to winter. Chances are, you were wearing boots. Footwear that’s heavier, waterproof, good for balance. Footwear that, inherently, has more built-in support.
The snow melts. The sun comes out. The boots go back into the closet, and out come the flats.
Flats are more breathable and lightweight… which is what makes them appealing in the warm weather. But when it comes to the anatomy of a shoe, there’s always a trade-off: the lighter weight a shoe has, the less support it’s likely to offer.
So your feet are used to these very supportive winter boots, and are thrown into lightweight shoes with little to no support.
And then you decide to get active!
You spend the day standing in line at a theme park, or taking the long walks you’ve been dreaming of all winter. Your feet are being put under way more stress, with much less support than they’re used to relying on.
The situation is a recipe for injury and fatigue.
Why aren’t flats supportive?
Why do lightweight shoes inherently lack support? To put it simply: supportive elements make shoes heavier.
The two places on a shoe to look for elements of support are the base of the shoe and the midsole.
Chunky, wide-based shoes are great for balance and alignment issues, but ‘wide and chunky’ doesn’t really describe the ideal cute summer flat.
Shoes with great support tend to have a well-defined midsole, with a high contour to really support the arches of the feet.
Of course, the midsole is almost entirely absent in most casual flats, which is why you don’t see a lot of flats with arch support. They get the weight down by making the midsole as miniscule as possible.
Leaving you with a thin layer of glue and rubber between your feet and that concrete.
What issues can arise?
The most common issues we hear about when it comes to the summertime footwear switch are issues of fatigue.
If your foot type tends to lead you into overpronation, for example, your foot naturally wants to roll inward during your gait. If you’ve been walking in winter boots that have really defined arch support, you’ve been getting a little assistance to help keep your foot in alignment.
Now you switch to non-supportive flats. Your foot lacks the support in the arch that it’s used to. You go out and do more activities than you were able to when you were cooped up during the winter, and your foot gets fatigued. It doesn’t have any support to rely on. Your gait slides back into overpronation.
Overpronation leads to torque, which leads to pain in your knees and your hips.
Similarly, we hear lots of complaints of plantar fasciitis, shin splints, and even back pain that arise after the great footwear switch.
What’s the best way to wear flats with support?
If you’ve gotten to this point and are starting to worry that you’ll have to wear clunky winter boots all year, take heart. There are better ways to get through the summer with all the support you need.
First, be sure to carefully consider your footwear choices based on the activity you’re likely to pursue. If you’re planning a day by the water without much pounding the pavement, flats are probably a fine choice!
But if you are about to walk around and wait in lines at a theme park all day, make sure to pick suitable footwear with the right amount of support. (For example, Running Shoes are breathable, without sacrificing support.)
Of course, sometimes a pair of sneakers don’t really go well with your ensemble. Sometimes flats seem like the only sensible option. How can you wear flats with arch support?
That’s where an insole comes in!
Find a good, supportive insole that has contoured arch support, and a heel cup to keep your foot in proper alignment. Making cute flats into supportive flats could make a world of difference to your body.
Orange Insoles makes an insole to fit most any type of shoe- including casual flats! The Orange Light is an industry-exclusive product that is streamlined enough to fit comfortably in canvas flats, without sacrificing any of the support your feet need to keep you healthy and happy. Find one in your size today!