Shopping·5 min read

theSkimm on Why Your Feet Hurt

cole haan promo image
August 12, 2019

The Story

Feet hurt? Same. Since the dawn of time (probably) women have dealt with shoes that cause pain and suffering. Or something slightly less dramatic. We wanted to know why. So did Cole Haan. They went deep on what’s wrong with footwear, and ​used their findings to launch a new line of women’s shoes - called Grand Ambition​ - that are specifically designed to keep your feet happy. Their innovation means there are finally heels that won’t slow you down.

Sounds good.

It is, and we’ll get into it later. First, the dirt on what’s making you want to change into the back-up flats you brought from home (aka, what inspired all of Cole Haan’s research and development). 

Been there.

It’s tough. But it doesn’t have to be. Here’s what goes on in your body when you wear uncomfortable shoes... 

I know badly designed heels are the culprit, right?

Right. In general, heels can be  painful to wear and difficult to walk in because of the way the weight in your foot is distributed. As in, all wrong. Everything (think: weight and pressure) gets shifted forward into the ball of your foot, as opposed to being evenly spread throughout. This sets off a whole messed up chain of events. First, to counter your balance, your center of gravity shifts forward. You feel this in your knees, which push out – and your back, which arches backward. As a result, the curve of your spine, which is naturally an S shape, is shifted. Your body is now (drumroll please) misaligned. This can cause back pain in addition to the pain you’re already feeling in your feet. Grool. 

Is that it?

That’s just the beginning. Poorly-engineered heels can also wear away your foot’s natural cushioning. This happens because, with so much pressure on the ball of your foot, it starts to become thinner over time. The result: a specific kind of pain called metatarsalgia. Which is about as fun as its name suggests. Oh, and one more thing. With all that weight in the front of your foot, tension gets taken off your Achilles tendon. This causes it to shorten, which can actually make it uncomfortable to wear flats. That’s because when the Achilles tendon is used to being shortened, stretching it to its original length starts to hurt. Rock, meet hard place. 

At least flat shoes are safe.

They are, but only if you wear them right. Your new motto: wear what fits. Because shoes that are too big or too small - even just a little bit - can get you into trouble. But it’s not just you: between 63 and 72%​ of people are wearing the wrong size shoe. 


Yes. Here are some of the ways that can wreak havoc, health-wise. 

  • Foot pain and deformity. A study of a lot of studies found that poorly-fitting shoes were associated with all kinds of problems, from hammer toe and bunions to corns to calluses. 

  • Plantar fasciitis. Not something you put on your window sill. It's the most common cause of heel pain, according to the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons. It's when the ligament that supports the foot of your arch gets inflamed...and every step you take feels like you're walking on fire. While some of it is genetic, it might also mean you're not wearing shoes that are supportive enough. 

  • Lower quality of life. This may be obvious, but think about how often you’re wearing shoes. Yes, it’s almost all the time. If you’re wearing shoes that are too big or too small, it’s causing low-grade discomfort that stays with you as long as you have them on.

Ok, got it. My feet hurt for a reason. So what do I do?

First and foremost, measure your feet again and be sure that you’re really wearing the right size. If you try on a pair of shoes and they feel a little too tight or a little too loose, don’t ignore it — go Goldilocks on that sh*t and don’t buy (or wear) anything that’s not just right. When it comes to heels, moderation is key. And when you do want to walk taller, try shoes that are made with your foot’s feelings in mind. 

Any suggestions?

Enter Cole Haan. They worked with the University of Massachusetts Amherst’s Biomechanical lab to create the innovative new line of shoes​ we mentioned earlier. So yes, they’re taking this seriously. With help from science, they created heels and flats that come with three layers of super cushioned foam for shock absorption and weight redistribution (shoutout to your aligned spine). As far as fit, the full line of shoes is engineered to contour to the natural shape of your foot, providing support. In a nutshell: they thought about all the ways shoes are doing us dirty, and then fixed them. 


Interested? Same. Because Grand Ambition shoes​ look great without causing you (see: all the problems above). So if the shoe fits (and these will), wear ‘em. Cue a step in the right direction.

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