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11 Types of Shoes that Cause Foot, Lower Leg, and Back Pain

When it comes to footwear, we often prioritize style and fashion over comfort and functionality. But if your shoes were to blame for that constant foot, ankle, knee, and lower back pain shoes, would you change your mind?

That time may have come, because certain types of shoes can cause pain and discomfort, making it essential to choose footwear that prioritizes your foot health as much as your fashion sense. We’re going to explore the most common types of shoes that cause pain in these critical areas. And more specifically, which conditions that each shoe contributes to.

Once you understand just how damaging these shoes can be, you may reconsider lacing them again. Time to heal your feet – let’s go.

Common Types of Foot & Lower Pains Caused by Shoes

We’ve established that certain styles of shoes can cause a variety of foot and lower body pains, but which ones?

Plantar Fasciitis

Plantar fasciitis is a condition characterized by inflammation and irritation of the plantar fascia, a thick band of tissue that runs along the bottom of the foot. It’s characterized by sharp pain in the heel or arch of the foot, especially with the first steps in the morning or after long periods of standing or resting. Shoes with inadequate arch support or cushioning, such as flat sandals or worn-out sneakers, can contribute to the development or worsening of plantar fasciitis.


Bunions are bony bumps that form at the base of the big toe, causing the joint to become misaligned and protrude outwards. Bunions are extremely painful and make it difficult to find closed-toe shoes that can accommodate the entire foot. And typically, bunions are the result of prolonged pressure on the big toe in the direction of the second toe. Oftentimes, they’re the result of regularly wearing tight, narrow shoes, especially those with a pointed toe box.

However, they can also be caused by a poor diet, specifically foods like red meat, shellfish, organ meats, and certain types of fish. If you have bunions, you should adjust your diet and wear shoes with wide toe boxes to alleviate the pressure and subsequent inflammation in order to heal them.

Morton's Neuroma

Morton's neuroma is a condition that affects the ball of the foot, typically occurring between the third and fourth toes. The tissue that surrounds the nerves thickens as toes are squeezed together by high heels or narrow shoes.

Corns & Calluses

Corns and calluses are areas of thickened skin that develop as a result of repetitive friction or pressure on specific areas of the foot. They can be painful and uncomfortable, causing a burning or stinging sensation. Ill-fitting shoes that rub against the skin or have narrow toe boxes can lead to the formation of corns and calluses.

Back & Leg Pain

Your feet are the base of your posture, so it shouldn’t come as much of a surprise that poor footwear can cause pain in your back & lower legs too. Shoes with inadequate arch support or cushioning can alter your gait, placing undue strain on your back, hips, knees, and ankles. This can lead to muscle imbalances, joint pain, and overall discomfort which will only worsen over time unless the issue is corrected.

Knee Pain

Wearing shoes that do not provide proper support and alignment can also contribute to knee pain. When the feet are not properly supported, it can cause misalignment of the lower body, leading to increased stress on the knees. This can cause patellofemoral pain syndrome or exacerbate existing knee issues like tendinitis, especially if there’s not adequate heel cushioning.

Now that you have a grasp on the types of pain caused by improper footwear, it’s time to find out which shoe styles you should avoid.

11 Types of Shoes That Will Hurt Your Feet

Some shoes are healthier for your feet than others, but you already know that. If you’re experiencing foot or lower leg pain, it’s likely because of one of these types of shoes. And if you haven’t yet encountered any foot issues, make sure to minimize the amount of time that you wear these styles.

1. High Heels

High heels are notorious for causing foot pain and discomfort. The elevated heel puts the foot in an unnatural position, placing excessive pressure on the balls of the feet. If worn regularly for months or years, high heels can cause metatarsalgia and Morton's neuroma. Not to mention, the lack of arch support and positioning places wearers at a much higher risk of ankle injuries and muscle imbalances.

2. Pointed-Toe Shoes

Pointed-toe shoes may look sleek and stylish, but they can be incredibly detrimental to foot health if worn daily. They squeeze the toes together for hours at a time, which can result in the formation of bunions, hammertoes, and corns. The narrow toe box also restricts toe movement, causing discomfort and potential deformities.

foot anatomy

3. Stilettos

Stilettos are an ultra-high version of heels with narrow heels. With little support for the heel, all of the pressure (and entire bodyweight) is firmly placed on the balls of the feet. The excessive pressure can cause pain, metatarsalgia, and stress fractures. Walking in stilettos alters the natural gait and stability, increasing the risk of ankle sprains and falls.

4. Platform Shoes

Platform shoes are an alternative to high heels in the sense that they add a few inches of height without the toe discomfort and lack of stability. However, they’re not entirely safe. The elevated sole strains the arches and heels, causing conditions like plantar fasciitis and Achilles tendonitis. If you’re shopping for platform shoes, make sure that they have ample cushioning and arch support to keep your feet healthy.

5. Ballet Flats

Ballet flats may seem like a comfortable alternative to heels since your feet are closer to the ground. But they often lack the necessary support and cushioning. The thin sole absorbs little to no shock, increasing the amount of pressure that your feet and lower body must absorb. This can cause shin splints, knee tendinitis, and other shock-related issues. And because they lack any amount of arch support, ballet flats can lead to the development of plantar fasciitis.

6. Flip-Flops

Flip-flops are a convenient choice for the beach and the pool – just slip them on and off as you please. But just like flats, they don’t offer enough support for your feet. And while a few steps a day is fine, the lack of arch support and cushioning can lead to foot fatigue, plantar fasciitis, and an increased risk of trips and falls. And if the flip-flops don’t fit properly, you may find your toes gripping onto the surface to keep it on your foot. This can cause muscle imbalances and overuse injuries.

7. Flat Sandals

Flat sandals are a popular choice for warm weather, but they often lack the necessary support and cushioning, just like flip-flops. The lack of arch support and shock absorption can quickly cause foot fatigue, plantar fasciitis, and even stress fractures. Look for sandals with built-in arch support and cushioning to provide better comfort and foot stability.

8. Heavy Work Boots

Work boots are designed to protect your feet in demanding environments. And while they succeed at doing so, they often fail to support the bones, muscles, and tendons within the foot itself. They’re much heavier than regular boots & shoes, placing excessive strain on the feet and lower body. Look for work boots that are lightweight, provide ample cushioning, and have good arch support to minimize the negative impact on your feet.

9. Ill-Fitting Shoes

Even the “perfect” style for you can be less than perfect if it doesn’t fit properly. Whether they’re too small, too big, too narrow, or too wide, ill-fitting shoes can cause blisters, calluses, and even more serious issues like plantar fasciitis. It's crucial to wear shoes that fit properly to prevent unnecessary pain.

10. Old or Worn-Out Shoes

Wearing old or worn-out shoes can significantly contribute to foot pain. Over time, the cushioning and support of shoes deteriorate, leading to decreased shock absorption and stability. This can result in various foot and lower body issues, including plantar fasciitis, shin splints, and knee pain. Regularly inspect your shoes and replace them when they show signs of wear to maintain optimal foot health.

11. Tight Shoes

Tight shoes can cause a multitude of foot problems. They can lead to blisters, calluses, and corns due to excessive friction and pressure. Additionally, tight shoes can restrict blood circulation, leading to discomfort, numbness, and even nerve compression. It's essential to wear shoes that don’t constrict your feet and allow your toes to function properly.

Not sure if you need wide or medium shoes? Check out our guide: The Difference Between Medium And Wide Shoes.

We know that certain occasions require you to wear high heels, flip-flops, or even heavy work boots. In most cases, your feet are tough enough to withstand a few hours of discomfort. As long as you regularly wear comfortable shoes that support your feet on a daily basis, you shouldn’t have any pain to worry about. If you must wear uncomfortable footwear for an extended period of time, make sure to rest your feet ahead of time and immediately slip on a supportive pair when you get home.

Or better yet, shop stylish shoes that are good for your feet.