Are you a slave to your highest heels? 5 Quick tips to save your feet
There is nothing like a great pair of heels to make a girl’s day, week, or season! Slipping on a pair of classic pumps makes any outfit go from drab to fab while making us appear slimmer. The latest fall collections are full of towering T- strap pumps, metal hardware, and adorable feminine bows. These hot, sexy shoes look great, but after a few hours can really do some damage to those tiny toes. How could anyone resist a pair of these Valentino open toe pumps from the Fall/Winter 2012 Collection?
From a woman’s point of view, I love and adore my heels. As a doctor, I know the negative side effects of these lovely little contraptions. The name high-heel explains exactly what happens. The heel is elevated and the musculature in the back of the calf starts to shorten. Over time, these muscles no longer lengthen as they properly should and can lead to rupturing of the Achilles tendon (connection of the muscle to bone). Normally, the tendon is made to stretch and compress with walking. With avid heel wearers, the Achilles tendon is shortened and becomes stiff. The musculature ends up compensating and doing most of the work, leading to leg cramping and fatigue. One study found that avid high heel wearers (40 hours a week for two years) had the same muscle fatigue and tendon stiffness even when not wearing heels! This means the body has adapted to the poor mechanics of wearing high-heeled shoes. The same study noted those who wore high heels less than 10 hours per week did not have overactive muscles and stiff tendons. Wearing heels forty hours a week increases the likelihood of Achilles tendon rupture and carries over even when not wearing any shoes at all!
The classic narrow toe box (pointed or almond-shaped) in the front of heels compresses the toes together. There are muscles between each bone that help strengthen the foot and decreases the likelihood of injury in the future. The narrow toe box can lead to unsightly bunions as well. These can advance to the point of requiring surgical intervention. High heeled shoes have also been implicated in causing degenerative changes within the knee based on the mechanics of the lower limb. The quadriceps muscles in the front of the thigh doubles it force during walking in high-heeled shoes versus flat shoes. This is important because it decreases the joint space of the knee- the bones get closer together. Over time, the bones start to rub together, cause pain and degeneration. The body is capable of adapting to its environment. Wearing heels forty hours a week or more is a dangerous game.
1. Wear heels less often. Save them for a special occasions or a fun night out. With fall quickly approaching, switch out those heels for some fabulous riding boots or the must have fold over booties. Ballet flats or canvas sneakers are another option. The goal is to mix up shoe styles and heel heights to avoid a shortened adaptation of the calf musculature.
2. Buy heels with a platform in the front. This will decrease the angle of the foot in the shoe and allow for decreased strain through the arches. It will also give you the height you want without as many of negative side effects.
3. Take those heels off! When at home, walk around barefoot. If you work at a desk, slip your shoes off underneath. Just take little breaks for your feet. Keep those shoes off for as long as possible. If you are on your feet all day, try to slip a foot out of the shoe every 15-20 minutes, if only for a moment.
4. Add a cushioning insert into the platform of the shoe. This will pillow the bones at the pad of the foot and decrease strain in the area.
5. Exercises. Stretching your calves (20-30 seconds) will help maintain the flexibility of the musculature and more importantly the Achilles tendon. Flaring out your toes will help strengthen the musculature of the foot that is often weakened with heel wearing.
The good news is wearing high heels takes years for the damage to occur. These tips can help reduce the chance of ever having complications from those lust worthy Loubitons.