Are you the woman who struts around in high heels? Feeling cute? Feeling sexy? You are paying a price for those high heels.
Your killer heels are killing much more than you think. Statistics show that high heels are one of the biggest factors leading to foot problems in women, with up to a third suffering permanent problems as a result of prolonged wear.
Your feet begin to hurt after a few hours, but your body is being impacted beyond sore feet. Normally, your feet act like spring-loaded, weight-distributing shock absorbers, cushioning your skeleton from crazy amounts of pounding. Jam them into high heels and you’ve shifted most of your weight onto the balls of your feet and your delicate toe bones. Additionally, cramming your toes into a narrow toe box can cause nerve damage and bunions.
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. 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. The change to the position of your spine puts pressure on nerves in the back and can cause sciatica, a condition where nerves become trapped, triggering pain and numbness as far down as the feet.
The higher the heel, the bigger the impact. Four-inch stilettos can increase the amount of pressure on the front of the foot by 30 percent or more.
Normally we walk heel-to-toe. But in high heels you are forced to walk staccato. Over time this can cause in bone and nerve damage and blisters and ingrown toenails.
Wearing heels forces your ankles to bend forward, a movement that could restrict circulation in your lower limbs.
Walking in heels stiffens your Achilles tendons, which anchor your calf muscles to your heels, causing your calves to bunch up.
Over time, high heel wearers can develop chronically taut (and shortened) ankle and calf tendons, making walking—even in flats—painful.
The knee is a shock absorber and is the largest joint in your body. Frequent high-heel use puts extra stress on the inner sides of the knees, expediting wear and tear that leads to osteoarthritis.
When you walk in high heels, you thrust your hips forward, arch your back, and push out your chest. That familiar sexy stance works the outer hip muscles and tendons hard but not in a good way. Your spine needs to sway unnaturally, a process that stresses your lumbar erector spinae muscle which causes a sore lower back.
You don’t have to give up your heels (but if you were smart you would). But to avoid problems that develop over time, doctors recommend:
Choose sensible heels. Select shoes with low heels – an inch and a half or less – and a wide heel base; a slightly thicker heel will spread the load more evenly. Narrow, stiletto-type heels provide little support and three inch or higher heels may shorten the Achilles tendon.
Wear soft insoles to reduce the impact on your knees.
Make sure your shoes are the right size so the foot doesn’t slide forward, putting even more pressure on the toes. Pick a shoe with a wide enough toe box to allow you to wiggle 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. Don’t wear your high heels all day; and wear more comfortable shoes, such as athletic or walking 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.
Stretch. Take time every day to stretch your calf muscles and feet. Stand 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, drop your heels down to stretch. You can also put a pencil on the floor and try to pick it up with your toes.
Don’t let your sense of style cripple your ability to stand or step pain-free. “Your feet are, quite literally, your base of support. If your feet aren’t happy, nothing above them will be. Take a closer look at your shoe selection and steps now to prevent big foot problems later.