Remember the days of wanting to wear your mother’s heels? Nothing made us feel more grown up than the click, click, click as we traipsed around the house, purse in hand while playing dress up. And now that we are all grown up, we can’t wait to take our heels off and give our poor, aching feet a break. So when we heard that flats were making a comeback, we were overjoyed! The one caveat: thanks to the bunions, calluses and plantar fasciitis we’ve picked up over the years, flats can actually be just as uncomfortable as heels. That’s why we spoke to a top podiatrist and tried on a multitude of shoes to find the most comfortable flats for women so you can put your best foot forward — in style.
Common causes of foot pain for women over 50
“As we age, we lose elasticity and flexibility. Our soft tissues weaken which can lead to limited range of motion and increased susceptibility to pressures,” explains Dr. Suzanne Levine, DPM, RPT, PC, podiatrist at Millenium Podiatry in New York City. “Hormonal changes affect bone loss and the integrity and structure of the foot.” These changes can lead to pain from:
- Plantar Fasciitis: Many factors can contribute to plantar fasciitis, explains Dr. Levine, including weight gain, circulatory issues, trauma over the many years we spend on our feet. It’s one of the most common foot conditions, especially in women.
- Metatarsalgia: This can occur if you lose cushioning under the balls of your feet. Dr. Levine says that there are injections that can help add extra cushioning, as well as special shoe inserts.
- Bunions and bony bumps: Due to tight and uncomfortable shoes, bunions and bumps can grow and worsen over the years, explains Dr. Levine. “Treatments may include wearing wider shoes, padding, orthotics, local injections, anti-inflammatories and even surgery to correct the bunion, known as a bunionectomy,” she says.
- Edema of the foot: Edema occurs when there is excess fluid under tissue, leading to swelling, according to the Mayo Clinic. This swelling can lead to painful aches and trouble finding comfortable, well-fitting shoes.
- Arthritis and stiffness: Arthritis can occur in various parts of the body, including your feet, “Especially the big toe,” says Dr. Levine. ” This makes walking very difficult,”
- Ulcers: “Ulcers, due to a breakdown in the skin, may be due to diabetes, biomechanical problems and/or weight gain over a short period,” she adds.
The most comfortable flats for women over 50
Although flats of all types have been around for years, they are making a big comeback this season, and even our favorite celebs have been rocking them. Best of all they require not tying, so you can slip them on without bending over and straining your back.
But, as much as you love the idea of a shoe you can walk more easily in, flats do come with their own set of issues that can exacerbate foot pain, including little arch support, thin cushioning (if any) and tight and narrow toe space to name a few.
What to look for in a flat, according to Dr. Levine: Arch support, wide toe or wide fit, soft cushioning like memory foam insoles and thick padding.
The good news: Comfortable flats do exist! From ballet flats and mules to loafers and everything in between, so you can still wear the trend without the suffering. Here, our favorites designed to tackle common foot conditions in style.
1. Comfortable flats for women: Ballet flats
Ballet flats are all the rage right now and have been seen on celebrities like Rosanna Arquette, Katie Holmes and Jennifer Lopez. Since they do have a closed toe and closed heel, it’s important to have enough wiggle room and width. The best bet? Choose one with a wider fit.
Aerosoles Catalina Ballet Flats (Buy from Aerosoles, $99)
This style from Aerosoles not only runs wide, but it also comes in six colors. Plus, they offer a “wide” size subsection (in addition to “medium”) for extra room. Says Deputy Health Director, Rebecca Haynes: “I wore them the entire commute to my work, all around the office, on the way home and even to dinner after work. I struggle often with closed shoes because so many have given me painful blisters, but I had zero issues with these. The sole was extra cushion-ey and my feet remained blister-free!”
Dream Pairs Square Toe Cushioned Knit Flats (Buy from Dream Pairs, $39.99)
These ballet flats from Dream Pairs feature a wide toe style, which is plus, especially for those of us who struggle with bunions. We loved the light color and cute pattern and nest of all? They are machine washable! They also offer a flexible, arch-support insole and padded heel collar.
White Mountain Sakari Ballet Flat (Buy from White Mountain, $44.99)
Red is this season’s hottest color and a red ballet flat is feminine and classy, a great option for lunch with friends or even a date night with your spouse. These flats from White Mountain are made with a memory foam insole, providing peak comfort for all day wear.
LifeStride Impact Slip-On (Buy from LifeStride, $69.99)
Despite the small wedge heel, these slip-ons are some of the most comfortable ballet flats you will ever own. They are lightweight and extra cushioned, plus they have great shock absorption and pressure distribution. Health Director Rachel Cosma gave her mother-in-law this pair to test out since she’s a teacher and on her feet almost all day. Her review: “I’ve never had a pair of flats so comfortable — it felt like a pillow for my feet!”
2. Comfortable flats for women: Mules
Mules like the ones on Lisa Rinna, are a great option for comfort because of their open back. Instead of squeezing your heel into a closed, confining flat, you just slip into these breathable and flexible options. Plus, they are a great transition shoe when it’s too chilly for sandals but too warm for boots.
Michael Kors Tiffanie Leather Mule (Buy from Michael Kors, $79)
Dr. Levine says she recommends Michael Kors shoes when it comes to flats because they offer “great style and comfort, and are reasonably priced.” These mules are made with 100% leather, which is hard to find for under $100.
Easy Spirit Leather Patti Mules With Cushioned Insole (Buy from T.J. Maxx, $29.99)
Executive editor, Danielle Saliman couldn’t have been happier to test out these Easy Spirit mules. “It felt like I was walking on a cloud! The cushioning is thick and padded, and I love the gold accent on the tassles.” They feature a cushioned footbed, making them a great choice for extra arch support, and have a thick outsole, sitting high off the ground without the pain of a heel.
Skechers Relaxed Fit: Arch Fit Granola (Buy from Skechers, $60)
Another one of Dr. Levine’s favorites? Skechers, of course! These mules are the perfect casual shoe to slip on, and they have amazing arch support. The “contoured footbed helps mold to your foot to reduce shock and increase weight dispersion,” claims Skechers’ website.
3. Comfortable flats for women: Loafers
A good, classic loafer is a staple to have in your closet. The style has been around for decades, but has recently risen in popularity. We’ve seen the flat shoes on celebrities like Jennifer Garner, and the versatile style can be dressed up or down, whether you need to head into the office and run errands around town.
LifeStride Catalina Loafer (Buy from LifeStride, $55.99)
These loafers from LifeStride are a great option for those with flat feet. They are made with two layers of lightweight foam, making them flexible, shock-absorbent, cushioned and supported. They also feature a traction sole for stability. Win-win!
Naturalizer Mya Loafer (Buy from DSW, $79.99)
For cushioning that will make you want to leave them on all day, Naturalizer’s loafers are it. Dr. Levine backs them up, saying they have “great cushioning and comfort.” Plus, they feature a non-slip sole, which is a must for any rainy or snowy weather.
Franco Sarto Cason Loafer (Buy from DSW, $69.99)
We can’t get over the chicness of the black and white color palette on these Franco Sarto loafers. Plus, the gold accent chain creates a perfectly polished look. They also have a thick outer sole, providing some height without an uncomfortable heel. “Loafers are so on-trend right now for women of any age. I’ve already gotten a pair of penny loafers for the Fall/Winter and I’m starting to wear them instead of my ‘trendy’ sneakers,” says stylist, host and author Melissa Rivers. “They look fresh and elevated with pants, jeans, skirts and even dresses.”
4. Comfortable flats for women: Slip-on sneakers
Whether you’re in a hurry and need to throw on some flats or taking a leisurely stroll around the neighborhood, a pair of slip-on sneakers like Kate Middleton’s are perfect. These aren’t the best choice for strenuous activities or intense workouts, but for a casual walk, slip-ons are a great go-to.
Dr. Scholl’s Madison Slip On Sneaker (Buy from Dr. Scholl’s, $50)
Dr. Scholl’s has been around for decades, and for good reason. Their shoes are comfortable and durable, and this pair is even sustainable. They’re lightweight and flexible, and offer much-needed arch support.
BLUEVIEW Pacific Slip-Ons (Buy from BLUEVIEW, $80)
These slip-ons feature an anatomical footbed. Plus, they feel “springy” when walking in them, so it won’t feel like you are walking on hard ground.
Skechers Arch Fit Arcade – Meet Ya There (Buy from Skechers, $75)
If you’ve been searching for the perfect pair of white slip-on sneakers, look no further. This pair from Skechers feature extra arch support and a thick outer sole. They go with any outfit and the laces do not need to be tied , so no bending over! Just slip into them and off you go!
Flats can be an excellent transition shoe from summer to fall, or fall to winter. A slingback flat, such as the pair on Natalie Portman, will offer peak breathability and coolness, and will prevent blisters on the heels. Plus, many feature a tiny heel, which can help to elongate legs and add extra height without the discomfort.
Rockport Total Motion Adelyn Sling Ballet Flat (Buy from Amazon, $88.71)
Rockport is another favorite brand of Dr. Levine. What they are especially great for? Shock absorption, she says. These slingback flats come in a beautiful neutral color that will pair with anything, and pretty pearl decals to dress up any outfit.
Aerosoles Catarina Slingback Flats (Buy from Aerosoles, $99)
Perfect for any semi-dressy to formal event, or even for the office, a blak slingback is so versatile. The strap on these Aerosoles slingback flats won’t dig into heels or slide off and the square toe makes for a wider and more comfortable fit.
Cole Hann Menlo Skimmer (Buy from Zappos, $89.99)
Dr. Levine loves Cole Hann flats. The reason? On top of their comfort, they feature “good quality and style,” she says. These slingbacks have an adjustable strap to help them stay on all day long and the front of the insole towards the toe is super soft.
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