Danger ranking: 5. We knew they weren't orthopedic shoes, but Brenner says stilettos are even worse than we thought: "Intense pressure on the front of the foot can lead to things like sesamoiditis, which is inflammation of the tiny bones under the big toe, and metatarsalgia pain, caused by pressure under the toes. Tight shoes that squeeze the toes together can lead to neuromas, or thickened and irritated nerves. Use caution when wearing shoes higher than two inches, especially for longer than two hours. We see a lot of lateral ankle sprains caused by stilettos," says Brenner. She adds this caveat: "Choosing footwear is like dieting: You can wear anything in moderation."
Best for: Boosting height, confidence, sex appeal and personal style (just remember that eight weeks on crutches can undo it all)
Avoid: Walking (ask someone to carry you!); fulfilling your bridesmaid duties on the dance floor
Doctor's note: "Get your feet properly measured. Go at the end of the day when feet are most swollen, and have the length and width measured while standing up, because shoes fit differently when you're sitting down. I'm a believer in custom orthotics that have been prescribed by a doctor. The Cobra orthotic is made to be worn in high-heeled shoes, and provides a little metatarsal cushioning and midfoot control."
Danger ranking: 5. "If you can twist them or fold them up and put them in your pocket, they're no good. There's no arch support and no lateral support. You may as well be walking barefoot."
Best for: "Lounging at the beach or the pool."
Avoid: Distances longer than the parking lot to the sand
Doctor's note: "I'm not sure if FitFlops give you the workout that they claim, but they have great arch support and heel lift. The back of the foot controls the motion of the front of the foot, so if you stabilize the heel, you also stabilize the arch and the forefoot. They also have a thicker sole, and raising the foot slightly off the ground helps you avoid glass and rocks. FitFlops are best for people who have already achieved some level of fitness—I wouldn't recommend them for those who are unstable in their gait."
Danger ranking: 5+. "The flattest, flimsiest styles of these shoes can do as much harm—if not more—than a pair of high heels. Overwearing flats can cause pain in the arches, bunions and the heels. There's absolutely no cushion or support, but people wear them like they're athletic sneakers. That's what makes them dangerous."
Best for: Dining alfresco; watching a play at an outdoor theater
Avoid: Museum tours; hopscotch
Doctor's note: "Commute in running sneakers and then change into these at your destination."
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