Stilettos get a bad rap for throwing your body out of alignment, but don't think that just because your shoe is flat that it's better for you. One of the most walkable, flattest shoes around is just as bad as super-high heels: ballet flats. Unlike heels, which put all the pressure on the balls of your feet, flats add extra pressure to your heel, without any arch support, according to podiatrist Hillary Brenner, DPM. Additionally, "a heel will lead to stress on the outside of the knee," says Miguel Cunha, DPM, at Gotham Footcare. "A flat will lead to stress on the inside of the knee."
Which is just to say, comfort isn't everything. In fact, when Dr. Cunha shared the key features to look for when buying shoes, comfort was secondary to shape. Of course, your ideal shoe will depend ultimately on your foot type, but there are a few guidelines. First, a wide toe box that bends upwards is recommended, to allow your toes to wiggle around and move naturally. Second? A thick, 1-inch heel to stabilize your stride. Finally, both doctors recommend a rigid, supportive shape with a cushioned, stable arch area. You know those flats that bend completely in half? That should not happen.
Unfortunately, we live in a world where shoes aren't always created for orthopedic value, and we like — and like to wear — the pretty little things that aren't always good for us. So ahead, we asked our two pros to rank our favorite shoes on a scale of 1 to 10 (one being great for our feet, 10 being awful). Ahead, an in-depth look at just how bad our mules, sneakers, and ankle boots really are. Hint: The slides are in order from worst to... least bad.