Poorly designed flats are just as bad for your feet as heels, but these comfortable ballet flats, loafers, and sneakers are cute and podiatrist-approved.
Long walks require shoes you can wear for hours—comfortably. Though we’re all well aware that heels just aren’t an option when multiple miles may be involved, the wrong ballet flats can be equally damaging to feet.
“Wearing poorly designed flats can result in plantar fasciitis, heel spurs, and neuromas, since narrow toeboxes can squeeze the metatarsals together in the front of the foot,” says New York City-based podiatrist Hillary Brenner. “Also, if chronically worn, flats can lead to stress fractures.” Yikes.
So while those sweet-as-can-be ballet flats appear way less damaging than your spikiest stilettos, they can actually cause considerable podiatric problems. We got in touch with top podiatrists to see how they pick the best flats for walking. Here, eight pairs that meet the experts’ foot-friendly standards.
Earthies Braga Loafer
These sturdy loafers have a boot-like outsole that offers durable traction, one of Howard Osterman’s musts when it comes to good-for-you flats. “We generally feel the ground a lot more when we wear flats,” says the Washington, DC-based podiatrist. “Choose a pair with rubber soles, which are better for shock absorption.”
“You never want to be able to bend your shoe in half like a burrito, or – even worse – touch the toebed all the way back to the heel,” says Dr. Brenner. These flats from FitFlop are soft, thanks to their cushioned footbed, but not too soft. In fact, they provide enough support that they got the American Podiatric Medical Association’s seal of acceptance. Noted.
SoftWalk Napa Flat
Tapered forefronts are allowed if your foot is super narrow, but round-toe shoes are almost always a better option. As New York City-based podiatrist Jacqueline Sutera, MD, explains, "If the shoe is pointy and flat, you can get ingrown toenails or pinched nerves." The wide cap toe on this neutral flat adds extra room for the front of the foot, so the muscles stay comfy, not cramped.
Earthies Essen Ghillie Flat
According to Dr. Osterman, the more flexible the shoe, the more the foot musculature is forced to work: “A less supportive shoe is going to make you much more fatigued,” he explains. Opt for flats with contoured insoles and added arch support, like this crisscrossed pair from Earthies.
UGG Carilyn Lace-Up Sneaker
These lace-up flats don’t just offer soft memory foam in the footbed—they also work to banish blisters, thanks to UGG’s signature anti-moisture lining. Plus, the bows on the rubber-soled shoes add a sporty-chic touch we love.
Pikolinos Santorini Loafer
When it comes to flats, Dr. Brenner advises shoppers to choose shoes that are made from materials that give: “I like flats made of suede or foam, so they don’t rub along bony prominences on the foot.” These soft leather loafers from Pikolinos contain elastic under the tongue, so they move with your foot, not against it.
Clarks Feature Film Leather Mary Jane Flat
“Sneakers are always the best choice for a full day of walking,” says Dr. Sutera. “But good flats can be worn for a long day at work.” One of Dr. Sutera’s favorite brands is Clarks, which makes sensible (and still cute) shoes like stylish flats that have OrthoLite’s signature foam in the footbed.
Vionic Larrun Bronze Snake Skin Loafer Flat
Get wild with these bronze snake skin loafers from Vionic, one of Dr. Brenner’s favorite brands: “I love Vionic because it was created by a podiatrist who took arch support, shock absorption, wide toeboxes, and cushioning into consideration when making the shoes.” Also available in black, gunmetal, and ivory.
Gucci Brixton Convertible Loafer
Yes, they're a splurge. But according to the many, many five-star reviews on Nordstrom.com, these much-coveted Gucci loafers are worth every cent. Soft, supple leather and a slightly raised heel make these shoes a dream to walk around in, even after hours on your feet. "These are by far the most comfortable loafers I own," one reviewer writes. "I want a pair in every color."