The Facts on Flats

What type of shoes do you wear to walk or work out? Do you wear ballet flats? How can you wear those pointed toe loafers? Thanks for your numerous questions about shoe choices. I’ll try to answer some of them today.

My New Balance sneakers above are a couple of years old. Similar here. I was on my way out the door to go for my daily walk in the neighborhood. The jeans are here, similar tee here, similar jacket here.

As I do in every fashion choice, I consider my shape and coloring and then think about which shoes will look best on me. We all know that comfort plays a significant part in the buying decision when it comes to shoes. The information below explains why some shoes may not be our best choice.

The shape of the foot, ankle thickness, and roll tendencies of our feet are all factors that impact how shoes will look and wear over time. People who pronate excessively roll their foot inward, causing the heel’s outer part to make contact with the ground and the feet to flatten too much.

Those who supinate do not roll their foot inward enough. Excessive supination is my problem. It is less common than excessive pronation. Over-supination forces the foot’s impact to be concentrated on a smaller area (the outer part) and not distributed efficiently. The smaller toes on the outside of the foot, rather than the big toe, do most of the work.

There are several shapes of human feet (more about that here). I have Greek shaped feet, so that I can wear pointed-toe and almond-toe shoes comfortably. My foot is relatively small, but I have thick calves and ankles, so very flat shoes with round toes are never the best choice for me.

Below are examples of shoes without and shoes with structure. The first shoes will offer little to no support because of the single-piece construction. Due to my tendency for excessive supination, the first shoes will lose their shape after wearing them only a couple of times.

The second shoe has a supportive visible arch, and the two-part construction on the top makes the shape of the shoe more durable. The second shoe will also look much better on my foot because I do not have slender ankles.

A couple of years ago, I stopped wearing high heels. That was a significant change for me since I wore three-inch plus heels for much of my adult life. It didn’t take long to discover that it does not always mean they will be comfortable, functional, or attractive just because shoes are flat.

I look for sleek, supportive shoes close to my skin color in summer and black to match socks or tights in winter.

Flat shoes with no structure are poor choices for my thick ankles, but sometimes a shoe is so cute I can’t resist. I will wear the blush pink velvet shoes above (here) with white pants and only during the best of weather conditions. I waited for them to go on sale, and I will be extra careful with them because I know they will not hold up for more than a couple of seasons.

The black suede loafers above are very durable because of their two-part construction, substantial arch, and block heel. I have been wearing them for three winters. Similar shoes here.

I rarely buy animal print shoes, but these caught my eye because of the construction, the unique block heel, and the subtle color combination. I’m happy to report they were super comfortable even on the first day I wore them. These shoes are here.

The navy suede skimmers above are too delicate for my over-supinating feet. I know that if I wear them very much, they certainly will lose their shape. The super-low heel is not comfortable for me, nor does it flatter my thick ankles. I will give these to my Mom. (Similar shoes here)

The Cole Haan loafers (here) above are my Goldilocks shoes. They are very comfortable, and the style looks best on my foot. I’ve worn them countless times.

I hope that sharing the details of how I decide which options are best for me helps you determine which items will serve you well.

Congratulations, Patricia Hornbeck, you are the winner of the earrings from Monday’s post!

  1. Good morning, Susan.
    After having foot surgery in November, I have been wearing Ariat boots for full support of my foot, and ankle. My clothing choices are limited to more casual than normal. I can only wear low heal dress boots for church, and take them off asap!
    This post is very helpful, in the way you’re showing construction factors. I have so many shoes that are only good for limited hours, and good weather conditions. Fashion has been my dictator, to my hurt, when it comes to shoes!
    Fortunately, I have learned to limit time spent in shoes that look great, but kill me!

    Thank you for your great input!

    Congratulations to the winner of your earrings!

  2. Lovely as always. The daily walk outfit is very relatable. Do you change clothes if you are going out locally for errands? Do you feel pressure to always be “on” because of the blog?

    1. I would change shoes, add a blazer, and a scarf before going out to run errands. I try to look my best each day, regardless if there will be pictures for the blog, but I think honesty includes showing you my most casual looks.

  3. Love, this article. I have a difficult time by shoes because I wear a narrow shoe. Not only do I have to have narrow for the toe box, but I need it to be narrow in the heel also. It is a struggle to find shoes. I too only wear flats.

  4. Shoes are so difficult for me because, due to foot forgery many years ago, I have to wear an extra wide width, which is very hard to find. I end up needing to order online (Nordstrom and Maryland Square are two sites with a good selection of widths) so if they don’t work for my feet, I have to mail them back. I never wore over a 2 inch heel, and haven’t worn heels for probably 20 years, yet I’ve still developed bunions. Sigh……

  5. Congratulations to Miss Patricia for winning the beautiful earrings! This is a very interesting post on shoes, what works, what doesn’t. I especially like the Cole Haan loafers. The color is perfect.

  6. Thank you for the informative article on flats. I struggle with finding flats with Good arch support. Your blog is “my go to” for looking fashionable at my age.

  7. Dear Susan,
    I recently developed a ‘hammer toe’ and mentioned it to my chiropractor. He is of the functional medicine school of thought not one of those back cracking types of old. He explained my supination and toe issue was due to some tightness in my hips and low back — the posterior chain. After some rather uncomfortable deep tissue releasing and some very specific exercises, both my foot stability and toe issue are resolving. I was so surprised to realize our gait and how we move affects our feet. For exercise at home for my feet now I rarely wear shoes, only socks, and I stretch my feet regularly by pointing and flexing them. It’s really helped with achieving the muscle strength to walk ‘normally’. I sought his treatment after a flare up of sciatic pain and felt like I had weakness in my thighs, making arising from a chair hard, despite walking every morning. Turns out it was that posterior chain being tight. Amazing how it’s all connected. I added collagen to my daily morning smoothie, and I’ve doubled down on turmeric. I’m not a huge fan of curry but I love butter chicken. If you email me I can send you a fantastic link to a site belonging to a wonderful woman who shares our plus sized history. I believe it’s called two sleevers (she and her husband both had a bariatric procedure called a sleeve).

    I’d love to know how you screw up the courage to walk when it’s freezing out (literally). I’m terrified of falling from slipping on ice and the wind cuts right through. I try to get that very early sunlight that has the optimum quality for circadian entrainment.

    — Walking in California’s Midwinter Foothills

    1. Thank you for posting, Liane. I’m very interested in your comments. I’ve developed bunions and hammer toes and have been searching for anything that will help them. My podiatrist isn’t terribly helpful, so I appreciate your description of exercises you do. I know I deserve to have foot problems because of my love of harmful but pretty shoes; my feet are getting revenge!

  8. Thank you for the information on flats shoes. I have a hard time finding shoes that fit. and are comfortable to wear for any length of time. I feel sure your information will serve me well.

    Have a great weekend,

  9. Love this post. Shoes definitely complete the outfit. What color pants can be worn with beige (cole haan style) shoes? Thanks for sharing the best tips. Happy weekend!

  10. Congrats to the lucky winner of the earrings.
    I also have thick calves and ankles but I over-pronate and look for exactly the same styles as you! I look terrible in a very flat heel and so uncomfortable. I need a good arch support and minimum of 1 inch to max of 2 inch heel preferring 1 1/2. I use Vionic arch inserts as needed (a lot of shoes that are perfect otherwise still have minimal arch support) in loafers and pump styles.
    But my most comfortable are my oxfords that lace up allowing me to “prop up my foot” so to speak as I tighten. I love tbe look of oxfords and they are so stylish with socks/tights also.
    Boots also prop up my ankles, especially my Clarks lace ups that I consider refined combat style.
    This is a very helpful post, Susan, to a subject that many may not consider much until we have to give up our high heels! Especially us short gals. You are educating us and showing us we can still be stylish and not frumpy because we can no longer wear heels. I’m 10 years older than you, so I’ve been working on this shoe thing for a while……and it feels great to have validation from you that I’m on the right track! And am so thankful for stylish yet conservative sneaker styles! Of all the fashion changes that come with aging, this one has been the most difficult for me. Thank you so much!!

  11. Thank you so much for sharing your thoughts on shoes. I’d never thought before about the difference between one part and two part construction and found that bit of information very helpful! It was an “aha!” moment for me and is something I will definitely be paying attention to in the future! I’ve always just thought I am hard on shoes but perhaps some of my shoes do not last because of their construction style. I’ve also realized recently that there is a difference between “low volume” and “high volume” feet. I need low volume shoes to prevent gaps everywhere and I really like it when bloggers’ descriptions mention what category a shoe is. Would you say your feet are low volume?

  12. Please will you show flats with more rounded or square toes. I know pointed toes are elegant but I can’t wear them.
    Thank you.

  13. I have the same foot shape as you and also deal with ankle and calf issues… thank you for the suggestions for appropriate, comfortable, and attractive shoe styles!!

  14. Great information in this post. I stopped wearing heels a few years back and have had a hard time selecting flats that work well for me.
    Love your posts. Thank you for your inspiration and valuable information.

  15. Thank you once again for an insightful blog. People are always saying that flats are the way to go but most ballet flats have no real heel. I still wear them for certain outings but I also have to look for a shoe that curves slightly up in the front. Those are most comfortable for my foot. I will try on these other shoes that you suggested since I have thick ankles and calves.
    Have a great weekend.

  16. I love the look of the shoes you posted above and of course these are what looks good on YOU….me unfortunately with already large feet at 9.5/10 feel like pointed toe shoes just make my feet look and feel bigger although i do own an adorable pair of ktiten heel slingback pointed toe shoes.

  17. Very informative. Never thought about the things you point out, i.e, foot and ankle shape, 2-part shoe construction. Thank you for your thoughtful post.

  18. HI Susan,
    thanks for this review of the flats you find most comfortable. I’m wondering if you purchase your shoes online at all, or only in shops. I do enjoy online shopping, but am quite apprehensive about buying shoes that way, because of the variations of shoes from one design or designer to the next, in terms of fit. So far, I have not engaged in online shoe shopping. your thoughts on this?
    warmest wishes from Deanna, in Canada

    1. I buy almost all of my shoes online, but I stay with brands I know and trust. Cole Haan, Vince Camuto, and Sam Edleman are among the brands I can feel confident in buying without trying on first.

  19. Happy Monday, Susan,

    I had to stop wearing flats many years ago and now thoroughly enjoy my “comfort” shoes…NAOT, ROMIKA, AND ALEGRIA are my fav GO-To’s . Also, because of my bony feet with a bunion I need a wide toe box, so, I buy Brooks athletic shoes; I also wear AETRIX foot supports inside most of my shoes.

    I would love to know your opinion on some of the above it you find them where you live or in your travels. I first found Romika in Calif many yrs ago before ever seeing them in our stores here in Houston.

    ‘s all for now….LOVE you from Texas, Carole

  20. I”ve never read anyone who did an analysis of shoe construction. It was interesting.
    As a pronator I know quite a bit about picking athletic shoes, I look for shoes with a harder material in the arch area and inner heel so when I land my the material keeps my foot from turning in.

  21. Thank you for a very informative post. The link on foot shape made me laugh a little when it said that my narrow feet indicate that I delegate well. Sigh, I know what that means and it is probably true. I was a teacher after all.

    Would you consider doing a post on boots, booties, shooties, ankle boots, etc.? I am confused by the differences and what length and style of pants to wear with what.

  22. Thanks so much for all this information! I see that I have a Roman foot which must have something to do with the fact that pointed toe shoes are usually not comfortable for me.

    I always learn something new on your site such as, the two-part construction of the flat is more durable. I do like to take care of my things and make them last as long as possible.

    Always enjoy your posts!

  23. The shoes you post are very nice and i have worn similar styles for years. I now have bad problems with my feet and knees and need to wear very supportive shoes. Searching to find something somewhat elegant in WW and supportive is very difficult. I am continuing my search! I like Munro and sometimes SAS. Any suggestions from you or your readers would be helpful. Enjoy your blog and while i have a more boho style have always embraced your theory of simple basics plus stylish additions…brava!

  24. Hello….shoes are always a conundrum especially when traveling. I have found Clarks Cloudsteppers line are an excellent choice for traveling. The have flats, sandals and slides that I have been wearing for travel over the last 6-7 years. The flip-flops are the most comfortable and come in several color choices. We travel in Mexico and the Caribbean every year and the Clarks are my go-to shoes. Hope this recommendation is helpful.

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I share tips and inspiration for using what you already have in contemporary ways. Defining words include effortless, classic, refined, discreet, and elegant. My style is chic, minimal, and timeless with a bit of edge.