The agony of da feet

Written by Giovanni Roselli 

There’s a certain beauty associated with a classic pair of high heels. However, the shape of high-heel shoes is meant for holding the foot in a particular position to benefit your appearance, not to provide comfort.

HEELS:

INCREASE PRESSURE ON THE BALL OF THE FOOT. A 1-inch heel increases pressure 22 percent; a 2-inch heel, 57 percent; and a 3-inch heel, 76 percent. High heels may make the legs look longer, but as the heel goes up, so does the pressure.

CHANGE YOUR CENTER OF GRAVITY. The increased weight on the balls of your feet causes your pelvis to tilt forward. To compensate, you lean backward, increasing the arch in your lower back, which puts a strain on your lumbar spine, hips and knees. The higher the heels, the greater the strain. It’s not unusual for people who spend lots of time in high heels to have low back, neck and shoulder pain because the shoes disrupt the natural form of the body.

DECREASE BLOOD FLOW. The shape of the shoe squeezes the foot into an unnatural position, thus constricting blood flow and sometimes even causing blood vessels to break or, even worse, causing nerve damage.

CONTRIBUTE TO OSTEOARTHRITIS. With heels putting excess force on the knee, this is a common site for women to develop this kind of arthritis.

PROMOTE BUNIONS. Tight-fitting shoes can cause a painful bony growth on the joint at the base of the big toe, which forces the big toe to angle in toward the other toes.

CAUSE HAMMERTOES. Additionally, a narrow toe box pushes the smaller toes into a bent position at the middle joint. Eventually, the muscles in the second, third and fourth toes become unable to straighten.

INCREASE THE RISK OF SPRAINED OR BROKEN ANKLES. High heels impair balance putting you at a greater risk of falling. Add this to the fact that there are potholes and so many other things just waiting to latch onto the pointy tip of a pair of high-heeled shoes.

Run much? Heels also alter the normal walking and gait cycle. They change the load the bones in and around the knee have to absorb, which inevitably leads to some type of pain and/or injury.

Running /walking is the most common form of exercise today. Think about someone who wears heels all day in New York City or Greenwich, then deciding to go for a run after work and/or on the weekends. Not good.

If you wear high heels, what do you do to lessen the pain that can occur when you wear them?

Sajid A. Surve is co-director of the Texas Center for Performing Arts Health and an associate professor at the University of North Texas Health Science Center, Texas College of Osteopathic Medicine. He reminds users that high heels should fit snugly and hold the foot firmly in place. High heels that are slightly loose cause your foot to slide back and forth. That friction is the culprit behind blisters, bleeding feet and ripped toenails.

Emily Splichal, a podiatrist and human movement specialist, tells us, “Your feet are the foundation for your entire body.” She encourages high-heel users to change footwear consistently. “Every shoe has different stress points, so tease your heel height throughout the week to give each part of your feet a break,” Splichal adds. “If you wear 3-inch heels one day, switch to a 2-inch heel the next, then try a flat.”

Podiatrist Elena Blanco of New Jersey’s Hackensack Center for Foot Surgery recommends getting softer soles. Cushioning inside shoes acts as a kind of shock absorber, lessening the impact of your foot hitting the pavement and reducing the strain on your knees. Slip thin gel or foam cushions into high heels you already own to cover and protect the area around the ball of your foot.

Podiatrist Andrew Gladstone of the London-based clinic chain City Chiropody & Podiatry may have summed up it best with this simple logic: “Listen to your feet. If they hurt, then they (shoes) probably need to come off.”

Reach Giovanni on twitter @GiovanniRoselli and his website, GiovanniRoselli.com.

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