You’re a busy working professional. Every morning, you pick out work clothes, iron them, and then choose
dress shoes. Whether you’re a male wearing dressy loafers or a female wearing high-heeled mules, your dress
shoes might be messing with your feet more than you realize.
The stylistic elements we’ve come to accept as trends-square and pointy toe boxes, narrow forefeet, and
pronounced, tight-heel cups-work against the anatomy of your feet. They restrict movement instead of
supporting your feet. This limited mobility causes pressure points and discomfort, which, over time, causes
We outlined each stylistic element you find in men’s and women’s dress shoes and what these trends do to
your feet. Read on to learn more.
Small Toe Box
You see small toe boxes in nearly every form of dress shoe. High heels and flats both come to a distinct
point at the toe box. Most men’s formal and semi-formal footwear features a version of the Oxford shoes,
which narrows from the forefoot to a nearly square-shaped toe box.
What You Can Do: Because these tight toe boxes disproportionately pressure your big toe and
your inner forefoot, try to choose round-tipped shoes that evenly distribute your weight.
Men’s shoes designers do a better job of crafting footwear with a wide forefoot, likely because men tend
to have wider feet than women. Women’s dress shoes, particularly high heels, often feature a narrow forefoot,
which increases the pressure on the balls of your feet. You can never truly take a balanced step in this
footwear. Bunions, hammertoes, ingrown toenails and other recurring blisters are often the result.
What You Can Do: If you do feel compelled to wear shoes with a narrow forefoot,
limit your time walking in them and bring a backup pair of comfortable shoes.
Let’s be honest here. Dress shoes aren’t designed for a high level of comfort. They don’t have much arch
support. They don’t have much flexibility in the mid-sole. You couldn’t bend your best pair of Italian
loafers or your favorite pair of strappy stilettos in half like you could with a running shoe. This lack of
support, over time, can contribute to plantar fasciitis.
What You Can Do: To protect your arches, consider custom orthotics.
Tight, Elevated Heel
Do you need a shoe horn to fit your heel into your dress shoes? Do you need to wiggle your heel to slide
into your pumps? These are signs of tight heel cups, a footwear trend that’s so common we rarely think of
them as detrimental. Nonetheless, a tight heel cup increases pressure on the heel bone and the Achilles
What about the height of your heels? Even a minor heel, like the 5-millimeter lift you find in a men’s
shoe, shortens the tendons within your feet and ankles. It can also cause postural problems.
What You Can Do: Contrary to popular belief, you should not break in shoes. If you try on a
shoe and the heel is tight, go up in size-every time. Since even a low heel can disrupt your posture,
minimize the time you have to wear them or avoid them entirely.
You might love your collection of dress shoes. You might need to wear dress shoes to the office. However,
your footwear directly affects your back, hips, legs, and feet. Therefore, it helps to compromise between
style and comfort. The next time you are searching for office-appropriate dress shoes, review the stylistic
elements we’ve outlined and the damage they can cause to your feet.
Are your feet aching when you come home from the office? Don’t hesitate to seek treatment from a reputable local podiatrist.