By Dr. Kimberley Masin
Now that the silly season has come to an end it’s time to discuss hanging up those party shoes for a while. Don’t get me wrong, I am a keen shoe enthusiast, but all of us should consider what toll our fancy footwear is having on our bodies.
Statistics show that one in ten of us wear high heels three days a week or more, and one third of those have fallen while wearing them. Wearing heels, particularly on a regular basis, is one of the leading causes of foot pain among women. Problems can range from ankle sprains, lower back and knee strains, to the more serious/permanent consequences such as nerve damage and bunions.
The mechanics of your body change as soon as you slip on those stilettos, your foot slides forward into your shoe which extends them in an unnatural position, and also forces them to conform to the unnatural shape of your shoe. You then put more weight in the toes and balls of your foot and to compensate you will tend to extend our knees and tilt our upper body back which causes strain on the lower back.
Over time, wearing heels can shorten the muscles in your calves which can lead to pain and spasms, and if overuse of heels is continued, can lead to plantar fasciitis, which is the inflammation of the tissues at the sole of your feet. This is a condition that takes quite some time to resolve.
In an ideal world, it would be advisable to keep those beautiful shoes for special occasions only, however this is easy for me to preach, as I wear flats to work due to being on my feet all day. For those wearing heels to work, here are some tips to minimise pain and discomfort and prevent long term issues:
- It is best to choose shoes of a sensible height, preferably 5cm or less.
- Shoes with a wider heels provide more even weight distribution and take the pressure off the forefoot.
- It may sounds like a simple thing, but choosing the correct shoes size is imperative to comfort. You should have enough room in a closed toe show, to comfortably wiggle your toes, without being so loose that your foot slides forward when you are standing and walking.
- Wear heels on days that don’t require much standing or walking
- Alternate your footwear throughout the week so that your feet don’t adapt abnormal mechanics from being held in the same position all week.
- Wear sensible footwear in transit, as dorky as it looks wearing runners with your work wear, it’s the most sensible way to travel to and from work, particularly if there’s a lot of walking involved.
And here are some tips for the special occasion heel-wearers such as myself:
- Again, try and choose a wider heel. Chunky heels are huge right now and they are far more supportive than the sleek stilettos. You will be able to at least distribute some weight through your heels.
- Platforms are definitely the way to go if you’re after some height. The easiest way to explain this, if you have a 10cm heel, and a 5cm platform under your toes, the incline of the shoe is only 5cm of height. You get all the height and far less discomfort!
- Open toe shoes allow for your foot to have more room to move and it will be less likely for your toes to conform to the shape of the shoe.
And these last few are for all the high heel lovers:
- Stretch your leg muscles regularly to counteract any tightness the heels may have caused.
- If you do get pain at the sole of your foot, use a golf ball and lightly stand on it and roll it around to release any trigger points you may have in the muscles for your foot.
- Wear padded insoles in closed toe shoes, and use a gel cushion in open toe shoes at the ball fo your foot, to decrease the pressure in the joints of your feet and provide some cushioning to take pressure off your knees.
- If you do get foot pain for a prolonged period of time, make sure you come in and visit one of our team members. If your feet aren’t happy, nothing else above them will be.
Hopefully no matter how often you wear heels, you have found some useful tips and tricks to minimise any potential damage that may occur in the long term. If you ever have any questions or concerns regarding any foot pain you may be experiencing, the team at Yarra Osteopathy are always happy to help.
Image from shoeenvy.com.au