Fairfield County Integrative Family Medicine, Trumbull, CT
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  Home » Newsletter » The Painful Truth About Wearing High Heels, January 2013
 

The Painful Truth About Wearing High Heels

The Painful Truth About Wearing High HeelsFor centuries women have been sacrificing comfort for fashion. From corsets to skin-tight jeans many women will try almost anything to look chic and be “in vogue.” While some fashion trends seem harmless, some can be dangerous and cause long-term health problems. One such fashion trend: high heels. High heels have been around since the 16th century where in Europe they were an indicator of wealth and status. Since then, the high heel shoe has remained a popular choice among women as a means of enhancing their stature and sex appeal. Unfortunately, if you’re wearing sky-high heels all the time, you’re putting yourself at risk for significant foot pain and permanent damage.

A survey conducted by the American Podiatric Medical Association showed that 42% of women admitted they’d wear shoes they liked even if they gave them discomfort; 73% admitted already having a shoe-related foot problem.

How High Heels Cause Damage

When you wear high heels — shoes with a heel two inches or higher — your foot slides forward in your shoe, forcing the toes into the unnatural shape of the shoe and redistributing your weight incorrectly. This unnatural position causes you to put pressure on the ball of the foot. As a result, the nerves around the joint in this area may become inflamed and extremely painful. In addition, the increased weight on your toes causes your body to tilt forward, and to compensate, you lean backwards and overarch your back, creating a posture that can strain your knees, hips, and lower back.

Researchers have also found that wearing high heels daily can lead to many other problems such hammer toes, bunions, dislocated or sprained ankles, fractures and ligament tears. Many women who wear high heels often suffer a shortening of the Achilles tendon because once the heel is pointed upwards, the tendon tightens up. Stretching it again or switching to flats can be very painful; it can even lead to plantar fasciitis. This tendon is designed to be flexible, so the foot can lie flat or point. With repetitive wear, you can develop unhealthy patterns that can persist even when you’re not wearing high heels.

Should You Give up Your Heels Forever?

If you can’t bear the thought of parting with your stilettos, try some of the following tips to alleviate your pain and prevent permanent damage.

  • Wear heels sparingly, since most of their biggest harm comes as a result of repetitive wear.

  • Choose sensible heels. Choose shoes with heels no more than 2 inches high — and even those should be worn in moderation. Wear heels with a wide heel base; a slightly thicker heel will spread the weight more evenly. Narrow, stiletto-type heels provide little support and may shorten the Achilles tendon.

  • Wear soft insoles to cushion your feet and reduce impact on your knees.

  • Pick a shoe with a toe box that’s wide enough to allow you to move your toes.

  • Wear heels on days that require limited walking or standing.

  • Alternate your shoe choice throughout the day or from one day to the next. Wearing shoes that allow your body to move naturally during walking will allow your feet, legs, hips and back to stretch.

  • Take time every day to stretch your calf muscles and feet. Try standing on the edge of a step with your shoes off. With your weight on the balls of your feet and your heels extending off the edge, slowly lower your heels down to stretch.

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