The Best Orthopedic Shoes for Women (That Aren’t Hideous), According to Foot Specialists

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Photo: Getty Images

Traditionally, orthopedic shoes have gotten a bad rap for being, well, ugly. But they’ve come a long way over the years. Even medical-grade shoes for people with severe deformities, chronic problems, and diabetes are beginning to look more mainstream, says Jacqueline Sutera, a podiatric surgeon at City Podiatry in Manhattan.

For the average person concerned about overall foot health, which affects the entire body from alignment to knee and hip issues, there are more options than ever before that provide stability and comfort without sacrificing style. To help us navigate the myriad brands and styles out there, we spoke to podiatrists like Sutera and John Brummer of Brummer Surgical Podiatry, as well as Michael Schwartz, vice-president at Eneslow, one of Manhattan’s oldest purveyors of orthopedic shoes, about what to look for when choosing the right shoe for you.

The best orthopedic sandals

Birkenstock Gizeh
$100, Zappos

All three of our experts are in wide agreement: Birkenstocks are great for your feet. “Birkenstock is doing cutting-edge things for the masses, not just for folks who need orthopedic features for relief or restrengthening muscles,” says Schwartz. They have a solid footbed that makes good contact with your feet and provide good arch support.

Naot Pixie
$150, Zappos

This Israeli brand was recommended by Schwartz, as well as by my own podiatrist, and I can attest that my Naot boots are one of the most comfortable pairs of shoes I own.

Aetrex Dawn
$120, Zappos

Sutera and Schwartz recommend Aetrex, one of the most popular orthopedic brands on the market. This panda-print slide is as cute as they come.

L’Amour Des Pieds Odetta
$219, Zappos

Writer Sadie Stein has already sung the praises of the brand L’Amour des Pieds, a brand that Schwartz likes, but here’s another option that has a little more elevation in the wedge, which is often a better foot-health choice for weight distribution than wearing a teetering heel, according to Sutera.

The prettiest orthopedic shoes

BeautiFeel Elsie Sandal
$325, Amazon

One of Schwartz’s favorite brands at Eneslow is BeautiFeel, a company that makes gorgeous dress shoes that are both functional and “very fashion-forward.” These sandals have a bit of heel, which can feel more comfortable for people with flatter feet.

BeautiFeel Aline Dress Pump
$288, Amazon

These pumps are made of soft leather, and its bold color imparts a little fun.

The best orthopedic pumps

Vionic Josie Kitten Heel Pump
$140, Zappos

Vionic was started by a podiatrist, and its shoes are engineered for maximum comfort. The American Podiatric Medical Association considers wearing heels over two inches the point at which damage can occur to your feet. So Sutera, who, full disclosure, does consulting work for Vionic, recommends a kitten heel instead. This pair features a foam-padded insole molded with biomechanic contours.

The best heeled orthopedic boots

Vionic Serena
$105, Zappos

The stacked heel provides height, while the removable, microfiber-lined, cushioned footbed adds comfort and support

The best clogs

Dansko Professional
$125, Zappos

Clogs are not meant for agility, but for people who are on their feet all day. “I wear clogs in the operating room sometimes,” says Brummer. “They alleviate a lot of stress on the foot, and because the heel is heightened, there’s a bit of lift, which decreases strain on the Achilles and relieves tension on the bottom of the foot.” As for wooden clogs, Sutera advises against overusing them: “The hard surface can bruise your feet, wearing them out and causing them to get thinner.” Your best bet is to stick with this Strat favorite, the Dansko clog.

The best orthopedic flats

Clarks Keesha Cora
$100, Zappos

Sutera recommends loafers and Mary Janes as stylish alternatives to the commuter sneaker, from brands like Clarks and Born.

Born Maarten
$86, Zappos

Made from leather, these Mary Janes feature a fully cushioned, leather-lined footbed.

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The Best Orthopedic Shoes for Women, According to Experts