While your favorite dress just wouldn’t look the same without a classic pair of heels, you can’t deny that they are much less comfortable than flats or sneakers—and you’re always relieved to kick them off at the end of the day. Unfortunately, high heels can cause ongoing complications that may not be worth the price of fashion.
High Heels Can Take a Heavy Toll on Your Feet
Women have worn some form of high heels for centuries, and they remain a staple for women enjoying a night out or as daily work attire. However, hours and hours of wear place a constant strain on the muscles, bones, and tissues in the feet and ankles, resulting in chronic foot pain or sudden injuries that may require surgery.
Pumps, stilettos, and other high heels are some of the leading causes of:
- Forefoot injuries. Instead of dispersing body weight evenly across the foot, high heels place all of the wearer’s weight on the ball of the foot. This places extreme pressure on the ends of the metatarsal bones and the joints between the toes and feet, increasing the risk of stress fractures and neuromas.
- Arch strain. The unnatural position of a high heel strains the arch of the foot so that the foot is always pointing downward. Over time, this can make it impossible for the wearer to walk or stand barefooted without pain.
- Heel pain. The pressure on the back of the heel bone can cause Haglund’s deformity, a bony growth, also known as a “pump bump.” The daily wearing of high heels can also cause the Achilles tendon to shorten, increasing the risk of plantar fasciitis.
- Toe injuries. Shoes with a pointed toe force the toes into an unnatural V shape, causing foot deformities such as hammertoes, bunions, and ingrown toenails.
- Sprained ankles. The awkward positioning of the foot inside the shoe can make it difficult to walk normally and throw off your balance. If your foot goes numb or your heel becomes stuck, your weight might shift sideways, twisting your ankle.
- Posture and gait problems. High heels don’t just alter the way your foot functions; it can affect the body mechanics of how you walk, stand, and carry your weight. The damage to your posture can place undue stress on the knees, hips, and lower back, causing pain and complications throughout the body.
How to Avoid Injuries from High-Heeled Shoes
If you enjoy wearing high heels, you may not have to give them up entirely to avoid foot pain. You can greatly reduce your injury risks if you:
- Choose a lower heel. Heels under two inches high are best for regular wear. If you want to go higher, consider heels that have a platform on the forefoot. This increases height while causing less distortion to the foot.
- Go for the perfect fit. A good heel will be comfortable when standing and won’t allow your foot to slide forward when walking. Rounded or open toes are generally better than pointed toe boxes, and a soft insole inside can reduce strain on the foot.
- Take breaks. Never wear heels to an occasion that requires extended periods of walking or standing. When you are sitting, slip your heels off and stretch your feet, focusing on bending your toes, flexing your Achilles tendon, and relaxing your calf muscles.
- Add padding. Apply foam padding anywhere the shoe rubs against your foot, and opt for cushioned insoles to ease pressure on the forefoot.
- Switch between flats and heels. Alternating high heels with a supportive shoe can give your feet a chance to recover, and reduce the risk of pressure injuries (such as blisters and corns).
If you are suffering pain as a result of your footwear, the foot specialists at Greater Washington Advanced Podiatry are here to help. We offer free initial consultations to determine the root cause of the problem, and create a customized treatment plan to get you back on your feet as soon as possible. Simply fill out our online contact form or call us at (301) 515-FEET to set up your first visit.