Vans, Keds, Dollies – they sound like the names of rock bands, but if you have teenagers, or pre-teens, you’ll know they’re actually the latest in teenage footwear.

To the parental eye, these shoes look pretty sensible – most have little or no heel, for instance, and they often have flimsy rubber soles.

But experts are now warning that the current shoe fashions will be causing teenagers discomfort in the short term – and storing up years of foot, knee and back pain in the future. You only have one pair of feet and need them for life. So why are teenagers today wearing shoes which don’t support or protect them?It’s the fashion. We now have a whole generation who will run into huge health problems because of their footwear.

Teenagers are particularly vulnerable because foot bones continue to grow through adolescence. The bones are still soft so they can be forced into unnatural shapes, not unlike foot-binding in ancient China.

This changes their gait, leading to problems all the way up their skeleton, such as knee, hip and back pain. And as this generation is likely to live longer than previous ones, that could mean decades of discomfort.


Teenage girls in particular are storing up massive problems because the shoes they are wearing are often too flat and unsupportive, claim the consultants at the Society of Chiropodists and Podiatrists. Experts identify the problems caused by teenagers’ shoe choice. Teenagers would rather die than be caught in shoes that aren’t trendy.


Slip-on shoes with elasticised sides are particularly popular among teenage boys – with Keds and Vans the most sought-after brands. The main problem is that they are just too flat. Since so much of the world has now been transformed into flat hard surfaces, we’re walking on hard, flat surfaces all day. This is not the kind of surface God designed the feet to walk on, that would be the earth. 


These shoes don’t offer enough support for the foot itself – the arches, ligaments and muscles become stressed and strained. The body’s weight shifts and this abnormal loading of pressure can lead to cramping pain in the feet, as well as mild deformities that will become great issues of pain as they age.

When too much pronation from lack of proper support occurs, the leg begins to rotate inwards, which can lead to huge problems.  Instead of the knee working like a hinge, you have a ‘squinting’ kneecap. The knees start to roll in towards each other, rather like being cross- eyed. The knees are working in an abnormal position, causing pain there and in the hips. And because the foot is unstable, problems can then develop in the muscles and bones of the foot and extend up the leg into the spine.


Another problem is heel pain. You need a bit of shock absorption in your heels. But many of these shoes are so flat that the heel is raised only 5mm at most and there is no room for any absorption to happen. The heel, which strikes the ground first, also becomes damaged and painful.


Most podiatrist will agree, they don’t  liked Uggs either. Again they are too flat and have no real support.

The heel has no counter in it and is too soft.  They get trodden down and collapse. So the wearer will be walking along partly on the scrunched-up fabric of the boot, and the foot will slide around, leading to problems with gait and eventually pain. This lack of support also means the heel will roll inwards, making flat footedness even worse, and leading to pain higher up the leg as well. To be fair, Uggs have now improved as they have reinforcement in the heel. Yet their price tag means many teens wear cheap imitations, therefore they have no stability in their boot.


The worst shoes of all are flimsy dolly shoes or ballet pumps. The problem is partly their flatness, as with Keds and Vans. However ballet pumps, which have no strap or heel, have other specific problems.

As the shoe has no fastening device, it relies on crunching the toes to keep the shoe on, and girls have to shuffle to walk, causing an awkward gait that leads musculoskeletal problems. This leads to short- and long-term problems such as clawed toes, calluses, heel and knee pain.

Furthermore, a foot which keeps on clawing will start to fix in this shape; claw-shaped toes can develop corns – it also becomes harder to find shoes that fit properly and don’t hurt.

Girls often buy a size too small so the shoe stays on.This creates different problems, putting pressure on feet which can become callused and develop ingrown toenails. Sometimes they develop such severe pain and deformities in their, feet they end up with surgery.

And then when the shoe stretches and starts to slip off, it becomes a trip hazard. The toes have to flex abnormally to keep it on. These flimsy shoes also offer no protection from colder weather. In children and old people, the blood supply to the feet is very poor, so they are prone to chilblains or cold blisters. 


If you can roll a shoe into a ball, it’s not worth wearing. A better choice is the brand Dr. Martin. Parents everywhere might hate them for their boy look, but they score highly compared with other flimsy alternatives. I have to say for that reason, I love them – they’re just fantastic.

I spent my own teen years wearing similar shoes like Doc Martens, and didn’t realise how lucky I was.

‘There is wiggle room for the toes so they don’t get squashed; they lace up and are sturdy and protective, with a good heel and a great shock absorbing sole. 

Low-cut lightweight lace-up athletic shoes such as the Fred Perry brand avoid some of the problems of the other flat shoes, say the experts. The key is to wear socks and tie the laces so the shoe is held on the foot properly, making them stable enough to support the ankle. 


Going without socks causes foot odor. This may be a fashion trend but it is not a health trend. ‘The foot loses about an eggcup of sweat a day. The kids sling them in a cupboard overnight, and then all that sweat goes on decomposing around the foot the next day – no wonder their feet smell.

Fred Perry and similar brands tend to have a little more height to the heel, avoiding problems with heel pain, and room for the toes.

They are still on the flat side, and therefore could strain the foot arches and the muscles if you don’t have proper arch support. If your legs ache a bit because the muscles are getting tired, get an insole fitted by The, or any other reputable pedorthic facility,  to support the foot properly,  not just an off the shelf support.

Many people think that Converse shoes, which are also tied on with laces, are good for the feet. But they’re no favorite among the experts. They’re just too flat and flimsy.

Sheer pressure as the body’s weight forces the toes into an enclosed space means that the feet may develop corns, calluses, ingrown toenails, compressed toes and bunions earlier than their mothers, according to podiatrists.


High heeled shoes may be all the fashion, but these shoes can also cause problems with gait. They may look good, but the heels on these are so high they can force the wearer’s body weight forward, making them very unstable and prone to topple forwards. They also through the center of gravity off and instability becomes an issue. And it’s not just the feet that suffer. Their effect on the wearer’s gait pattern is quite marked with knee and hip pain.

Teens who wear these shoes regularly are also in danger of joining those millions of women with persistent back pain. Furthermore, the increased pressure in the ball of the foot can mean thickening skin and general inflammation, or metatarsalgia, which is very painful. They also shorten the calf muscles. This becomes painful if you want to wear flatter shoes or visit the gym, and could even lead to a rupture of the Achilles tendon. Surgery is the only cure for a ruptured Achilles tendon.


So what do the experts have on their wish lists, especially for everyday footwear? Something in a natural, breathable, fabric, with a strap, Velcro or laces to hold it on, with a small heel and a deep toe-box or front of the shoe that does not squash the toes.


Try Clark’s, Marks & Spencer or Rhino, or one of the comfort brands like Finn Comfort, Naot, Haflinger or Drew, say experts. Or a sport shoe, with a small heel and decent room in the toe, to prevent a lifetime’s pain from foot problems.


If your teen insists on wearing ‘bad’ shoes, get them a pair of ezWalker custom orthotics for in their shoes. These support and correct the movement of the foot. Properly fitted, which is done with the method of taking a proper impression of your feet, can often guide their gait and halt the damage.


If your clubbing teen must wear high heels, she can minimise the damage by wearing an ezWalker in her shoes to the venue and home again.


So when your looking for footwear with your teens, and even you children in their 20’s and 30’s, or even for yourself, remember this advice. If you can roll it into a ball or wring it out like a dishrag, it’s probably not worth wearing. Or at least not if you want to be comfortable and care for the health of your feet. But if you insist, then put an ezWalker inside them, and give them a better chance of helping you care for your feet like they try to care for you. Remember, you only get one pair of feet, and to my knowledge the replacements I’ve see so far are no comparison to the real thing. So take care of your feet because when your feet feel good you feel good.