Stylish comfort shoes exist! A podiatrists guide to shoe shopping

Model wears Ziera ‘Delta’ in blush $239.95

The term “comfort shoes” once evoked images of spongy, extra-wide, clog-like footwear. But we’re pleased to see that the fine balance between shoes that are good for your feet, while also good looking, has finally been found. There are some gorgeous brands that are leading the charge to provide women with the things their feet need and packed with all the trimmings their hearts want.

We sat down with podiatrist, Sarah Bizzell from Footloose Podiatry as she advises on how to decipher if a shoe is going to take care of your foot or cause future issues. Make your next purchase armed with the knowledge to shop anywhere your budget allows or simply rely on trusted brands who have your best podiatry-interests at heart. We’ve included some favourite styles from those very brands throughout the feature for your shopping (and walking) pleasure.

What kind of conditions can ill-fitting shoes lead to?

Ill-fitting shoes can lead to a variety of foot complaints. Blisters or corns may develop from friction and pressure of a tight shoe. Muscular overuse may occur if a shoe is too loose. The extra clawing of the toes to hold onto the shoe causes a tightening of muscles and a change to foot function. Particularly in ballet flats, if the heel is slipping and the toes are gripping, it causes the foot to do more work. This can result in corns over the toes as they have clawed to grip on, or it may cause strain and pain to the muscular structures on the sole of the foot.

If a shoe is too narrow, or too high it can cause pain in the ball of the foot. This is commonly due to compression across the front of the foot. This is very common in women and the pain is often described as pins and needles, burning or numbness in the ball of the foot or toes. The condition can be related to, or exacerbated by poor alignment or excessive mobility. If this is the case, a podiatrist may include some in-shoe wedging to relieve the discomfort.

bright comfort shoes

Ziera ‘Tyler’ $199.95 // Bared Footwear ‘Spoonbill’ $249

Do you have to spend big bucks even for flat shoes?

As ladies we are often happy to spend money on heels, on special occasion shoes, on pretty sandals; yet we neglect the shoes we choose to wear every day. Expensive shoes do not always mean they’re good quality, and good quality shoes also don’t mean the shoe is necessarily right for you. In saying that, comfortable everyday flat shoes should be seen as an investment in your wardrobe, for health and style. Having a few staple pairs of flat/low heeled shoes can save you from more pain down the road. There are many wonderful brands making flat shoes stylish and for this the podiatry world is grateful. However, not every shoe will work for everyone.

We have a few simple guidelines to stick to; and after that, comfort is key.

  1. The shoe only flexes at the toes. This means when you push the shoe at the front and at the back it only flexes where your big toe joint flexes.
  2. The shoe should only twist up to 45 degrees in each direction, you don’t want to wring your shoe out like a towel.
  3. The heel. The back of the heel should stay upright, or flex forward a maximum of 45 degrees in order for it to have good control and work as one unit with your foot.

Testing a comfort shoe

 Sarah demonstrating a successful shoe test using a Ziera ‘Diego’ Blush/Gold Brush Off $229.95

Many comfort shoes have a slight incline in the flats. Is that something we should seek?

A slight incline or heel-to-toe difference of 10-20mm for a flat shoe and up to 45mm for wedged shoe can be very comfortable. It helps by balancing the pressure across the foot and reduce strain on the heel and back of the legs.


Clarks ‘Glove Daisy’ $129.95 // Frankie4 ‘Beth’ $229.95


Are there particular types of materials that we should look for or avoid?

From a podiatric perspective, I would advise avoiding materials which are too soft underfoot.  There is an increasing number of shoes which have a sole made from a low-density foam/rubber composite which is very soft and flexible. This can feel very comfortable initially, like walking on clouds even. However, as discussed previously, a shoe that is too flexible causes the foot to work harder. Even though the sole has less direct pressure, muscles may become strained or overused. The soft shoes can also affect balance and overall stability when walking.

The upper materials can be made from a wide variety of materials and individuals may prefer different textures and styles. Leather and other natural materials are more breathable than synthetics, thus the foot is likely to sweat less in natural fibres.

slide comfort shoes

Ziera ‘Courtney Khaki’ $169.95 // Frankie4 ‘Maria Navy’ $149.95


Are point-toe heels ever permitted?

Pointed toes are a classic style. There is an increasing number of brands who are designing pointed toe shoes which taper after the widest point on the foot, avoiding the crushing of toes. There is still some compromise here and it can be difficult to find the right fit. I work primarily in Toowoomba and Dalby, so I have very few patients who are wanting to wear heels more than for a special occasion. A team of podiatrists in inner-city Brisbane have worked on the Shoe Equation to help their patients find a ‘better’ shoe. Helping meet them halfway, if they are unable or unwilling to wear other types of shoes.

Frankie4 HiLARY $149.95, Bared Footwear ‘Rhea’ $229


What are the best types of shoes to prevent corns from returning?

This is entirely dependant on the location and the reason for the corns.

  • Often corns which develop between the fourth and fifth toes, or on the outside of the fifth toe is from a shoe which is too narrow, or the toe box tapers too early leaving insufficient space for the fifth toe. The shoe may not feel “tight”, but corns develop due to a combination of direct pressure and friction.
  • The second common area for corns is over the tops of the joints. This is often related to a flexible foot where toes “claw” or grip, as well as a foot which was previously flexible and as arthritis has affected the small joints they become fixed in a clawed position. These feet need a shoe with a deep toe box or a flexible upper. There are shoes on the market which have a stretch material upper which accommodates specifically for difficult toes.
  • Lastly, a variety of corns can develop on the sole of the foot. This is usually due to excessive pressure over one spot on the foot and becomes increasingly painful. Good footwear as mentioned above may relieve some of this pain. However, I highly recommend seeing a Podiatrist to have the corn reduced and they can advise on correct footwear, inserts and offloading techniques to reduce pain and regrowth.

loafer comfort shoes

Clarks ‘Andora Crush’ $129.95 // Hush Puppies ‘Chardon Penny’ $159.95


Are there certain shoes to avoid if you suffer from tinea?

Tinea is a fungal infection affecting the skin. Fungus thrives in dark, moist areas. Footwear which is commonly worn without socks is worth avoiding as it is difficult to keep the inside clean and free from fungus. Synthetic materials may cause the foot to sweat more and thus increase the risk of tinea developing. It is advised that overall hygiene is considered, drying feet thoroughly, wearing clean socks each day and following professional advice in regards to further treatment.

brouge comfort shoes

Ziera ‘Olga’ $229.95 // Bared Footwear ‘Duck’ $249

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