High heels. Some love them. Some hate them. Despite your true feelings, many of us have had times in life (hello holiday parties) when we need to throw them on.
According to the American Osteopathic Association, “One in 10 women wear high heels at least three days a week and one third of those women have fallen while wearing them.” Your favorite pair of stilettos may be beautiful, however long term use of high heels is one of the major factors that lead to foot problems.
Your feet are meant to be the cushion for your entire body. Think of them like little springs that keep your skeleton happy during any activities in which you are standing. However, shoes with a heel of greater than two inches will cause your weight to be redistributed and your feet can no longer do their job. What happens when you wear high heels, your feet will slide forward and a majority of your weight is now on the ball of your feet.
The shift of the weight for a long period of time can cause many problems with some becoming permanent. Ingrown toenails, bunions and spider veins (due to decreased blood flow in the feet) are just a few of the minor problems. More serious complications include shortening of the Achilles tendon. What this means is that the tendon becomes so stiff that you may not be able to walk in flat shoes without having pain.
Other serious problems include osteoarthritis which is a chronic problem caused by the wear and tear of your joints. The most serious complication from long-term high heels use is stress fractures. This is do to the strain that is placed on the bones secondary to change in weight distribution.
Some treatments that are used for foot pain are oral anti-inflammatories (such as ibuprofen), cortisone injections and crutches. Surgery may even be a consideration.
Now don’t go throwing away every pair of heels you own. High heels can be safe when the heel is less than 2 inches in height. It is best to avoid stilettos and opt for heels with a wider base of stability (such as a wedge shoe). A skinnier heel provides little support increasing the risk of ankle injury. A low heel with soft insoles can greatly decrease the strain on your joints. Make sure your shoes are the right size so your toes won’t slide down and change the natural weight distribution of your body. Also, try not to wear your high heels all day. Choose more comfortable shoes, such as tennis shoes for commuting to and from work. Wearing shoes that allow your body to move naturally during walking will allow your feet, legs, hips and back to stretch.
So remember, you only get two feet. Treat them kindly.