High heels are a highly popular fashion statement. Many women love the way they feel in high heels – more glamorous, taller, more feminine. Need I go on? However, as I tell the women in my life, when you continually live in high heels, you are turning your feet into victims of fashion. It’s an inescapable fact that the structure of high-heeled shoes and the structure of the human body are at odds with each other. To learn more, watch this informative YouTube video about the effects of high heels on various parts of your body, not just your feet. So, let’s regard the foot in high-heeled shoes as if the foot is being asked to perform certain unnatural gymnastic-type maneuvers that are described as follows.
- The Slide – Slip your foot into a shoe with a high heel, and your foot is immediately at an unnatural angle. The slide of your foot forward in a high-heeled shoe causes your weight distribution to change, leading to friction and pressure between your foot and the shoe. The slide can lead to foot pain, corns, calluses, and ingrown toenails.
- The Bend – The downward pressure on the foot caused by the slide may lead to the bend. The bend affects toes forced down into high-angled shoes with narrow toe boxes. In time, the toes begin to deform by curling at the middle joint. Your previously straight toes are now hammer toes. When a toe has the bend, it becomes even more prone to the maladies of the slide. Or worse, the toe joint can dislocate, become rigid, or painful enough to need surgical intervention.
- The Lift – If Barbie were real, she’d need a standing appointment (pun intended) with a podiatrist. Picture Barbie as an 11-1/2 ft. tall Cinderella with her little feet forever lifted and arched, perpetually waiting for that high-heeled glass slipper. Although she looks very pretty, she would be grimacing because her Achilles tendon is strained, and she’s likely suffering constant pain in the ball of her foot. The lift shifts much of your body’s weight onto the ball of the foot and keeps your heel and Achilles tendon from working properly.
- The Shift – Several forces must be in correct alignment for the joints and tendons of your feet to work the way they were designed to. If your feet are ratcheted up two inches or more from their natural arches, you shift these forces out of balance. If your big toe joint is affected, a bunion might be the unwelcome result. Or, if the shift affects your little toe, you might get a bunionette – yes, that’s a real word! A bunion crowds out your other toes, shifting them out of whack and changing the whole profile of your foot.
- The Tilt – High heels also cause a tilt in your posture. A woman may unconsciously lean back slightly to offset the tilt caused by the arch of high-heeled shoes. If the result is a swayed back, your calf and hamstring muscles may shorten resulting in back pain, imbalances, and even osteoarthritis in your knees.
- The Crack – Forced into high heels, your forefoot bears all the pressure of everyday walking, climbing the stairs, and running to make the next train. All this pressure makes your feet and ankles prone to stress fractures. Stress fractures are tiny cracks in bones. They cause pain, swelling, and tenderness and can take a long time to heal, especially if you don’t give your feet a rest from those high heels.
I Like My High Heels so What Can I do?
If you really can’t bring yourself to give up your high heels completely, the best advice is not to wear them all the time. Why not keep them just for special “dressy” occasions like weddings or New Year’s Eve parties? In certain locales, it has become quite fashionable to wear sneakers to work. Maybe these Glamour photos of women wearing sneakers will inspire you. Once in your office, you are probably breaking the dress code by keeping your sneakers on, so change into a comfortable, supportive pair of low-heeled shoes. You can find selections that look nice and go with your work outfits.
Foot Problems Caused by High Heels
Here at Rocky Mountain Foot & Ankle we regularly see women with foot problems caused by the wearing of high-heeled shoes. We tell our patients that shoes are tools and most tools have a purpose. The purpose of a high heel is to look pretty, sexy, or professional. You wouldn’t wear ski boots to go dancing in, and you wouldn’t wear bowling shoes to go to the beach! Picking shoes should be all about function. However, if you think you have a foot problem caused by wearing high heels, come see us. We will do our best to put your feet on a more even footing.