Potential risks to wearing high heels …But if you insist

However, this beauty can come at a high price. Are you willing to pay?

High heels can cause corns, calluses, ingrown toenails, blisters, bunions, hammer-toes, nerve damage, circulatory damage as well as problems with the spine, hips, knees, ankles, and foot joints.

The average woman will get foot pain after just one hour of wearing heels, but most will continue to wear them. When wearing heels, the body will attempt to compensate for the change in balance created. The hips will tend to flex forward and the calf, hip and back muscles become fatigued and cramped.

The higher the pair of heels, the greater the impact on your feet.

The foot acts as a shock absorber to cushion the skeleton. As the body weight is shifted forwards onto the balls of the feet, the pressure increases in this area by 30 per cent or more. The heel to toe transition becomes abrupt and you are forced to swap a natural stride to shorter clipped steps. If the shoe is enclosed, your toes are crunched in at the front. This may lead to endless problems and foot deformities.

Long-term wearing of high heels can restrict the circulation at the ankles. Many women end up with thread or varicose veins as a result. The Achilles tendon can also shorten, leading to an “equinus” foot, where you are permanently walking on tiptoes.

The knees act as another shock absorber but they may develop osteoarthritis due to the excessive pressure. To walk in heels your spine needs to sway unnaturally. This will affect the lumbar erector spinae muscle, resulting in lower back pain.

After reading all of this, if you still insist on wearing high heels, here are a few tips to reduce potential problems.

1. For everyday use, heels should be no higher than five cm.

2. Save high heels for special occasions so that you get that extra special sparkle when you go out and it’s not a mundane everyday look.

3. Try to limit wearing them for no longer than seven hours for the day.

4. If you are attending a posh event, take along a pair of glamorous slippers to change into in the later part of the evening.

5. Slow your pace down when in heels. Ensure your heel comes into contact with the ground first and take shorter strides. This will minimise the damage to your feet and make you glide elegantly.

6. Be sure to buy the correct shoe size. The vast majority of people coming into my clinic are wearing shoes that are too small. Sizes vary according to style and brand, so try them on and walk around in them for a few minutes to make sure they do not rub. There should be up to a two-cm gap in the shoe beyond the longest toe.

7. Be honest with yourself! They may look good but if they hurt, it will only get worse and cause you permanent damage, so don’t buy them.

8. Buy shoes in the afternoon when your feet will be at their biggest.

9. Buy wedges but not high ones as these can have their own problems like sprained ankles.

10. If you already have corns, calluses, nail problems, etc, see a podiatrist regularly for advice and maintenance.

11. After a long day, exercise your calf and foot muscles by stretching to aid the circulation and help them to relax. Finish off with a moisturising foot massage.

Women’s love affair with high heels means they will never go out of fashion. We all want to look attractive and elegant but at what cost? Reduce the heel height and the frequency with which you wear them and visit your podiatrist. This should help minimise your risk.

Angela Davis BSc (Hons) DPodM MChS is a podiatrist with offices in Montego Bay, Mandeville, Ocho Rios, and Savanna-la-Mar. She is a member of the Health and Care Professions Council in the United Kingdom. Contact her at 293-7119.


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