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High Heels: At what cost to our feet

I have a confession to make. I am a podiatrist and I love to wear high heels. This is a pod101 no-no. Wearing high heels can cause reversible and irreversible damage to the feet, legs and spine. As Christian Louboutin honestly stated- “high heels are pleasure with pain”.

High heels come at a cost. So is all of that leg-lengthening, butt-lifting and height-enhancing really worth it?

Lets ease ourselves in by talking about the reversible damage that can occur:

  • Inflammation of the big toe joint (sesamoiditis)
  • Neuroma- thickening of the nerves in the ball of the foot, causing a shooting pain in the ball of the foot and toes
  • Corns and callouses- hard skin that develops on the sole of the foot and little toes due to pressure
  • Achilles tendon and calf pain- caused by the shortening of the calf while the foot is in a downward position
  • Headaches
  • Ingrowing toenails due to pressure from the tight shoe toe box

Now for the potentially irreversible damage:

  • Bunions – the formation of a painful lump protruding out of the big toe joint
  • Osteoarthritis in the big toe joint, other toe joints, midfoot and ankle. Also in the knee, hip and lower back. Osteoarthritis in one joint usually increases the risk of osteoarthritis in adjacent joints.
  • Lower back pain – high heels accentuate lower back curvature causing compression of the lumbar discs

So what are some tricks to reduce the likelihood of doing such damage to our precious feet?

  1. Rotate your shoes: Do not wear the same shoes every day. Vary the style, heel height and toe box shape.
  2. Stretch your calf muscles daily
  3. Only wear high heels when necessary. Avoid walking or standing in them for long periods of time. If you sit at a desk all day, take them off so they are not cramped up for hours.
  4. Improve your core strength. This will help to improve your postural awareness and reduce strain on your back. This can be done by attending Pilates classes or by having a physiotherapist or exercise physiologist tailor a plan for you.
  5. See a podiatrist. There are lots of simple tricks for reducing strain and forces on parts of your feet. For example, padding and high heel orthotics
Laura RabjohnsHigh Heels: At what cost to our feet