The hottest accessory for women this year is ladies towering over their men in Christian Louboutin and Jimmy Choo 5-inch-plus spike heels. In an age when high fashion has worked its way into the daily lives of an ever-growing segment of the female population, the mandate to look good can trump good sense. Feet are rebelling, and inflicting shame and pain when neglected.
A Few Hard Facts:
Women ages 18-34 may be more carefree and style-conscious than their older counterparts, but their feet are sending them a clear message:
- Growing Pains: Comfort is much less of a concern when younger women shop for shoes. Only 57 percent rate it as all-important, in sharp contrast to 82 percent of older women.
- Live and Learn: Younger women’s lack of emphasis on comfort in footwear choices could explain the greater incidence of certain foot problems among younger women. Almost two thirds (65%) have suffered blisters as a result of poor shoe choices, compared to 60 percent of older women. Heel pain affects nearly half (44%) of the younger crowd, compared to just over a third (35%) for those over 35.
- High heeled shoes have been linked to many foot ailments like bunions, hammer toes, neuromas, metatarsalgia, Achilles tendonitis, ingrown toenails, and corns and calluses. Chronic knee pain and back pain can also be linked to high heeled shoes.
Is this the price we have to pay for cute shoes? What is a fashion conscious woman to do? Wearing high heels changes the biomechanics of walking and can have an impact on the entire structure of the foot and the relationship of the knee to the ankle, as well as your lower back. But there are steps (so to speak) you can take to minimize the damage from those killer heels!
Guidelines for Healthy High Heeled Feet:
- Buy shoes that fit! Sounds like a no-brainer, but most women wear shoes at least a half a size too small. Measure your feet every time you buy shoes, even just a few extra pounds can make your shoe size larger. Remember that the number is just a suggestion, different brands can size completely differently.
- Wear a wider shoe than you think you need. The shoe is not going to stretch that much when you “break it in.” Most women also buy their shoes too narrow!
- Always buy shoes in the afternoon or at the end of the day. Your feet swell throughout the day, so you will get a better, more realistic fit if you buy in the afternoon.
- Buy leather shoes, not synthetics. Leather is more forgiving.
- Beware of the pointy-toed, high heeled shoe! These are a double-whammy! Try to avoid the severe point and go for more of a taper or square toe box.
- If you have bunions or hammertoes, a silicone protective sleeve can reduce pain from rubbing in your shoes. Make sure your toe box is wide enough to accommodate the padding.
- If you have two different sized feet (and most people do), shoe stretchers can be used to stretch the toe box if one foot is only a little bigger than the other. If you have significantly different sized feet, some stores and websites will sell you two different sized shoes.
- Try to avoid really high heels. Your feet (and knees) will thank you if you adjust your heel height to lower than 3 inches.
- Try to wear a consistent heel height. Going up and down in height can be quite a pain in your Achilles tendon.
- Chunky heels are much more stable than stilettos. Try to wear a wider, more supportive heel or even convert to platforms!
- If you have to wear heels and have a flexible flat foot, try “Insolia” insoles. They are relatively inexpensive and can make a 3 inch heel feel like a 2 inch heel by distributing stress from your forefoot to the middle of your arch.
- If you have constant knee pain, avoid heels all together! One study showed a 26% increase in stress on the knee joint in heels higher than 2 inches. Osteoarthritis in the knee has been linked to long-term wear of high heel shoes.
- Always have a pair of running shoes or casual shoes in the car or in your desk. You never know when you will need to make a mad dash for the airport or get stuck running errands. Always have a pair of comfortable shoes on hand for emergencies.
- Applying lotion to your feet daily can help with corns and calluses. An emollient lotion with an exfoliant can help with thick, hard skin caused by shoe pressure.
- Get a regular pedicure. Having a regular pedicure and keeping your toenails in tip top shape can help with ingrown toenails, also caused by shoe pressure. Make sure your pedicurist is using sterile instruments and never let them cut your corns and calluses with a sharp blade!
- Never perform bathroom surgery on your corns and calluses. Also, never use those over-the-counter corn removers; the acid plaster in these products does not know when to stop and can cause nasty sores and infections!
- Get a regular massage. Massage can really help with delayed muscle soreness and fatigue from the abnormal stress caused by high heeled shoes.
- Toe stretching exercises can be very helpful after taking off your shoes. This helps increase the circulation to the poor little tootsies that are cramped in your shoes.
- Stretch your Achilles tendon and calf muscles at least every day if not twice a day. Regular stretching can help combat the shortening of the Achilles tendon that occurs from chronic wear of high heel shoes. This shortening can lead to tendonitis and heel pain!
- Core strengthening exercises can help stabilize your feet and decrease the stress from high heeled shoes. Every woman should do core exercises at least three times a week. They help with back pain, knee pain and foot pain caused by instability.
- See your podiatrist if you have any pain that lasts more than five to seven days. A few aches and pains are normal from high heeled shoes, but if you have pain, numbness or burning that persists for more than seven days, you have an injury. Simple solutions are available at your podiatrist if you seek help early. A delay in treatment can lead to needing surgery or worse…
Women have been wearing high heeled shoes for generations, but these are just a few simple things we can do to make our feet more comfortable even while still enjoying the latest fashions! Follow these simple guidelines for healthy feet and you’ll find your high heeled fashions more comfortable than ever before!