How to make ballerina flats comfortable to wear – so you don’t fell like you are walking barefoot on cement!
Flats, particularly ballerina flats, are pretty and go well with both skirts and jeans. But sometimes they are just ‘too flat’ – in fact so flat that you feel like there is nothing between you and the pavement. You feel like you are walking barefoot on the sidewalk! Every bit of irregularity in the surface under your foot comes to your attention.
Ballerina flats are inherently thin bottomed and have a low heel, but there are better and worse ones out there. If you love these flats but you also love to have a comfortable walk, look for flats that have at least some heel of about ¼ inch, and look for a heel that seems soft and rubbery, not one made from hard plastic. The sole of the shoe should also be rubbery and if it is ribbed or textured it will absorb more of the shock of walking. The sole should be flexible so that walking is comfortable, and the shoe is less likely to fall off at the heel end.
As with any shoe make sure the flats fit properly with at least ¼ inch of space in front of the longest toe, and that there is wiggle room for all the toes. If ballet flats are too short they will begin to get distorted at the front in the shoe box with ‘toe imprints ’ visible on the outside of the shoe. Don’t buy flats that are tight in the hopes that they will stay on your feet when you walk, there are better solutions for flats that fall off. The better solution is to put in slim contoured foam ball of foot inserts that will keep your feet from sliding forward as well as cushion the ball of the foot against the hard ground. Never buy flats, or any shoes, ever with the plan that you will ‘stretch’ them to fit. If they are natural leather they will become distorted, and if they are patent leather (vinyl) they will stretch but then spring back. Also shoes can never be stretched for length. Most shoes that are tight at the toe end are too short. This is especially a problem with pointed toe shoes of any style including flats. There has to be considerably more space in the front of the shoe in pointed toe shoes than in rounded toe or almond toe shoes. The forefoot must not be squeezed at the sides and the toes should not be bumping into the front of the shoe. If the forefoot is squeezed nerve damage could result, and if the toes are bumping into the front they may become distorted into hammer toes or develop a blister or a callous. Plus of course your foot will hurt!
The illustration for this article is a pair of $6 flats made as comfortable as $60 cushiony flats with the addition of a ball of foot cushion and cushioning into the heel area. The ball of foot cushion is contoured PORON foam that never crushes, and is designed to take up minimal space so the toe box does not feel crowded. The ball of foot cushion will keep the foot from sliding forward or sideways, and stabilize the foot so there is no heel gap. You will be less likely to lost a shoe if the foot is stabilized and not gaping at the heel end. All flats can use some ball of foot cushioning unless they are unusually well designed with cushioning built in, plus have thick bottoms. Sometimes flats need heel cushioning as well, as in the example here in these $6 flats which were on sale down from $15. (The heel cushion illustrated is a trimmed PORON ball of foot cushion). I knew in this price range there is rarely sufficient thickness in the sole or a rubber heel which is why I bought these flats to test for this experiment to see if they could be made wearable. The ball of foot cushion is comfortable enough, however the heel could use more cushioning. Small arch supports in flats would also add to comfort if flats make your feet feel as if there is pulling on the underside of the heel and the bottoms of your feet become sore.
In addition to the ball of foot cushion (which is a must for most flats) - and optionally heel and arch area cushions - bandages will come in very handy particularly at the back of the heel. Even if a shaped ball of foot cushion that is designed to keep the foot stabilized prevents heel gaps, many flats have a sharp ridge or elastic at the back of the heel that digs into the foot. In this case a strategically placed bandage at the back of the heel will help ensure that the heel is not irritated.
Beware that flats can harm your feet if you walk for long periods of time in them. Just because they look benign - unlike killer heels - they too can harm your feet. Treat flats, such as ballerina flats or ankle tie flats or slides , as you would high heels or mules or any other unstable and potentially painful footwear and outfit them with cushioning and stabilizing inserts. The best cushions are ones that don’t crowd the shoe, stop the foot from sliding forward, plus never flatten. Also wear your ballerina flats for only as long as you are completely comfortable and don’t overreach. For long walkabouts especially outside wear good loafers, runners or hiking boots. For indoor wear when you will be standing and walking a lot wear flats with a one or two inch heel such as espadrilles or sling backs which are flat shoes that are adaptable to wear with many styles of clothing.
Ball of foot cushions have many problems. Too bulky, too hard, don't hold the foot back from sliding forwards and don't stick - even falling out of a shoe! Since 40% of ball of foot pad reviews on Amazon are fake making a good buy is difficult. This chart is based on analysis of 600 reviews to help you.
Review the ranking of the Best and the Worst in high heel shoe cushioning. See if you can find the one you wear most often, and compare it to the other six.
The 'secret' to making sure you get high heel shoe inserts that will work for you and give your foot maximum comfort is to never buy or wear high heels that are too tight. Customize your high heels with foam inserts that have at least three important features. 1. The cushioning should never crush. The 'new springy foam' feeling should last forever. 2. The cushioning should be soft, never hard and slippery like gel or a rubber/plastic combination. 3. The inserts should hold your foot back against gravity 100%. Much of the pain of high heels is from toes and forefoot being crushed. Bonus if the inserts you choose stabilize your high heels to stop wobbles - a big help in platform heels or high heeled sandals.