How can switching from high heels to flat shoes cause foot pain?

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Grant L. Beck, DPM
Foot & Ankle Surgery
Switching from high heels to flats can cause pain because the foot has adapted to high heels, says Grant Beck, DPM, from Sunrise Hospital. Learn more in this video.
Anthony L. Komaroff, MD
Internal Medicine
Wearing heels for long periods can result in a shortening and tightening of the Achilles' tendon. When you walk in a relatively flat shoe, your foot flexes up (dorsiflexes) when your heel hits the ground and then flexes down (plantarflexes) as you toe off. If the Achilles' tendon is short and tight because of high heels, the foot loses its ability to flex up and down, so switching to a flat can cause heel and calf pain. Flats can also aggravate conditions like plantar fasciitis if they lack good arch and heel support.

If you're moving away from high heels to flats, do so gradually, wearing lower heels at first. That will give your Achilles' tendon time to relax and stretch out. You might also try doing some of the standard exercises for stretching the Achilles' tendon.

The basic maneuver involves keeping your heel on the ground and your leg straight as you lean forward.
Harvard Medical School Foot Care Basics: Preventing and treating common foot conditions

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.