Wearing high heels often can lead to several problems with the feet. (Picture by Reco Moore)
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Women love a sexy pair of heels. With brand name designers such as Jimmy Choos, Sam Edelman, Louboutin, Rachel Roy cornering the market with hefty price tags, some women are paying the price in more ways than one for these killer heels.
THOSE PERFECT PUMPS you fork over hundreds of dollars for in the name of beauty, can create the perfect storm for permanent health problems. If you frequently wear high heels, you are setting yourself up for long-term issues.
“High-heeled shoes are an important part of every woman’s beauty arsenal. They can provide a much needed lift in spirit, self-esteem and confidence. Unfortunately, wearing high heels can take a high toll on the health of one’s feet, with many committing ‘shoe-uicide’ says Dr Paul Adams, a local orthopaedic surgeon.
According to Dr Adams, high-heeled shoes with a tight toe box will increase the occurrence of corns and calluses. “A higher heel and steeper slope will result in the foot sliding forward, making this problem worse. Pumps with a partial opening for the toes (peep-toe heels) also encourage the foot to slide forward increasing pressure on these vulnerable areas.”
Janelle W. wears heels no higher than four inches and the shoe has to have a platform front.
“This gives me support and comfort. I find if I go any higher the arch of my feet feels uncomfortable and puts pressure on my toes.”
This pressure, Adams says, can contribute to making the condition of bunions worse.
“Heels with a narrow toe-box will increase the pressure across the toes. Severe bunions alter the distribution of weight across the ball of the foot, causing calluses and deformity of the other toes. Severe bunions require complex corrective surgery which may prevent the wearing of high heels after surgery.”
Delores D. and Donna F. have heels as high as six inches.
They both say they “walk differently” when they wear heels of a certain height.
“I am in heels every day at work. And when I am not in heels it is wedges of a certain height. I go barefoot home as flats make me feel weird,” stated Delores who said she has a high arch that can accommodate the height of her heels.
Donna F says construction plays a big part in her purchases. “I have to have good support and while the heel cannot be too thin, since I wear them all day, they also have to be comfortable.”
Adams says that constantly wearing high heels can also result in shortening of the Achilles tendon (heel cord).
“Chronic contraction of the tendon may require a surgical procedure to lengthen the tendon. In the early stages stretching exercises are sufficient to combat this.”
Adams says while there is no recommended heel height and every woman’s foot is different, it is more important to wear a well fitting heel that does not allow the heel to slide forward. There should be sufficient space for the toes without crowding. a slightly wider heel provides a more stable base, and the slope of the shoe should be gentle rather than an abrupt drop off. Wearing heels of varying heights is also helpful.”
Another common problem caused by wearing heels is increased pressure on the fat pad on the heel.
This pad is essential as it cushions the forces acting at the heel with every heel strike in walking or running. The fat pad also becomes naturally thinner as women age. The higher the heel and the more narrow, the higher the force acting at the heel pad.
“Prevention is the best treatment as surgical treatment of some of these conditions can be complex and cost can run into the tens of thousands. The recovery can also be prolonged and often result in limited mobility and inability to bear weight during the recovery period,” said Adams.