Are High Heels Bad For My Health?

Are High Heels Bad for My Health?

Better Health - - CONTENTS - By Amor Forde, Po­di­a­trist

Footwear was ini­tially de­signed to pro­tect and sup­port feet. How­ever, the fash­ion in­dus­try now gen­er­ally in­flu­ences buy­ers more than func­tion­al­ity. High heel shoes have evolved over the years and though not al­ways com­fort­able, fe­males have per­sisted in buy­ing into this trend. Higher heels are there­fore here to stay, whether it is a plat­form, stiletto or wedge heel shoe. This ar­ti­cle will an­swer some fre­quently asked ques­tions about high heel shoes

I wear high heels reg­u­larly and I have pain in the ball of my foot. What is hap­pen­ing?

This con­di­tion is called metatarsal­gia and is es­sen­tially pain in the ball of the foot (the area on the sole of the foot just be­fore the toes). The heads of the metatarsals (or long bones in the foot) are lo­cated in this area un­der a fat pad. This fat pad cush­ions and pro­tects the bones. When wear­ing high heels, most of the body’s weight is con­cen­trated on the ball of the foot, in­stead of be­ing more evenly dis­trib­uted across the sole of the foot. When ex­ces­sive pres­sure is placed on the ball of the foot, the fat pad can thin out pre­ma­turely or shift po­si­tion. There­fore, the bones lose their pro­tec­tion and are made to bear a sub­stan­tial amount of pres­sure, which can re­sult in pain.

I used to wear high heels all the time, now it is painful to wear flat shoes. Why?

While wear­ing high heels, the mus­cles in the calf are con­tracted, which is sim­i­lar to be­ing on tip­toe for an ex­tended pe­riod of time. This causes the fi­bres that make up the mus­cle to be­come shorter. When we lower our heels from this tip­toe po­si­tion, the calf mus­cles need to stretch to re­turn to their re­laxed state. Af­ter a pro­longed time of be­ing con­tracted, such as

wear­ing high heels reg­u­larly, mus­cles can be­come dam­aged, lose their flex­i­bil­ity, and there­fore lose their abil­ity to stretch as much as they did be­fore. These per­sons are un­able to get the amount of stretch needed to be in the re­laxed po­si­tion. They, there­fore, can get pain that ra­di­ates into their heels when at­tempt­ing to walk bare­footed or in flat shoes.

Do high heels cause cal­luses and corns?

Corns and cal­luses are caused by an in­crease of pres­sure over any area of skin. The skin re­acts by be­com­ing thick, hard and some­times dis­coloured. Since high heels push the body’s weight onto the ball of the foot, it nat­u­rally in­creases the pres­sures on the plan­tar sur­face of this part of the foot. As a re­sult, per­sons are pre­dis­posed to corns and cal­lus over the ball of the foot. Toes are also a very com­mon area for corns and cal­luses, es­pe­cially for those who wear en­closed higher heels.

Is a wedge heel bet­ter than a stiletto?

Though both these styles can cause detri­men­tal changes in pos­ture when the heel height is in­ap­pro­pri­ate, wedges are prefer­able to stilet­tos. With stilet­tos, the full body weight is pushed on the ball of the foot. How­ever, with a wedged heel, there is sup­port along the length of the shoe re­sult­ing in a more grad­ual dis­tri­bu­tion of weight. This is why wedges are gen­er­ally more com­fort­able than stilet­tos.

Do high heels cause kid­ney dam­age?

There is no ev­i­dence that sug­gests that wear­ing high heels da­m­ages your kid­neys; how­ever, lower back pain in the anatom­i­cal re­gion where the kid­neys are lo­cated is com­mon when wear­ing high heels. This is due to the change in pos­ture when wear­ing high heels. The pelvis is tilted for­ward, there­fore putting a com­pres­sive pres­sure on the lower back mus­cles and can po­ten­tially strain your spine.

What should I look for when buy­ing high heels?

A max­i­mum heel height of two inches in usu­ally rec­om­mended. The cor­rect length is im­por­tant, but ad­e­quate width and depth around the toes, es­pe­cially in en­closed footwear, should also be en­sured. En­closed footwear should fol­low the nat­u­ral rounded shape of the toes in­stead of hav­ing a ta­pered front. There should not be any bony promi­nences seen when your foot is in the shoe. Any bulged ar­eas in­di­cate as­pects of the foot tak­ing high pres­sures and can re­sult in corns and cal­luses. An ad­justable strap across the in­step also helps to se­cure the shoe to the foot and gen­er­ally makes them eas­ier to walk in.

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