Fall fashion has made its way from the runway to the streets. Sky-high heels that were part of Fashion Week are now trending as today’s look. There is no doubt that heels can complete an outfit, but what about the pain? There is an old adage that without pain one cannot achieve beauty. I think our feet may disagree on this one.
Whether it is to complete work attire or for fashion, heels make legs look longer and leaner and boost a woman’s height. High heels change standing posture by causing an increased arch of the back, pushing the pelvis forward. This causes the calf muscles to tighten and shorten. Some of the catwalk movements are actually the body trying to compensate for the changes in gait your body needs to make during the walking cycle.
According to the American Podiatric Medical Association, wearing heels three inches or above on a regular basis can contribute to shortening of the Achilles tendon, the tendon in the back of the leg, causing tightness and chronic pain in the calves. Other issues such as neuromas, hammertoes and bunions can also result from long-term wear. Gait changes may also lead to knee, hip, and back pain and can even accelerate arthritis in these joints. With that knowledge, still some cannot ditch the heels, so what can be done?
- Choose the right size shoe. As simple as it sounds, the shoe needs to fit. Make sure there’s some space from the longest toe and the shoe. When shoe shopping, buy at the end of the day when your feet are already swollen. Also, look at your width of your feet. I see too many women with wide feet cramming into a narrow shoe. This will help avoid bony changes and damage that can lead to bunions, neuromas and hammertoes.
- Break them in. Wear socks at home while wearing shoes for a few hours, or use shoe stretchers. Wear shoes that give, that are made of leather rather than synthetic, so they can stretch.
- Cushion inside the shoe. A gel cushion in ball of the foot (also known as metatarsal padding) can do wonders! Moleskin can also be used on bony areas of the foot to protect from friction. Unfortunately, this discomfort won’t do anything to alleviate the calf, knee, or back pain that results from posture changes caused by wearing heels.
- Switch it up. Change your shoes throughout the day. Wear heels only for periods of time and give your feet a break.
- Wear a platform and find shoes with a thin rubber sole. Choose wedges over stilettos, a lower heel over sky-high, and one that encompasses the ankle, allowing for more support.
For the time, heels are here to stay. The good news for women is that the physics of high heels are now being more closely studied. Biomechanics as well as gait changes are finally being considered in shoe development. Let’s hope this will lead to a shoe that looks killer on the runway, but that does not kill our feet!