Heel Heights And Shoe “Gapping”

Flat Shoes

Hearing that a shoe is “too flat” for someone may sound ridiculous since our feet our naturally built with flat heels, but with the increasing popularity of flats and ballets, many people are learning this can be a real problem. It is usually obvious that a flat isn’t ideal for a certain type of foot when there is significant gapping on the lateral side or outside of the shoe. This happens when a foot is pronated or “turns in” and is not getting enough support.

What many people don’t understand is that a 1-1.5″ heel is actually ideal for a pronated foot, because it restricts the foot’s ability to turn in. Very often the problem a flat foot has with gapping in a flat shoe disappears with a slightly higher heel. When you put a pronated foot into a flat shoe with limited support, however, both of these variables combine to accentuate the gapping effect. Much worse than the aesthetic damage is the ankle, knee and back pain that can come with several hours of wearing. If your feet are pronated and you tend to gap significantly in flats…beware!

The same can happen with pes cavus or “high arch” feet, except that the gapping will occur on the medial or “inside” of the shoe. Because the flatness of the shoe isn’t stabilizing the foot’s tendency to “turn out”, the shoe will gap around the arch.

Higher Heeled Shoes

Gapping in the back of a shoe with a higher heel is another common problem. This is because gravity is pushing the foot forward in the shoe, and the foot isn’t being supported enough in the midfoot to hold it in place. This is especially common with more flexible feet that tend to move around in shoes. Although many people tell themselves when this happens that the heel of the shoe isn’t cut narrowly enough for them, in reality, it’s the midfoot that is too wide and not supportive. This allows gravity to push the foot forward and create space in the back.  As always, a thin strap and a little bit of extra arch support can go a long way in solving heel fit problems.

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