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Many women have a love/hate relationship with high heels. They love how the shoes look on them, but hate how they make them feel. My name is Dr. Andrew Schneider, and I'm a podiatrist in Houston, Texas. Unlike many podiatrists, I don't tell my patients not to wear high heels. Why? Well, for one I'm a realist and I know they're going to wear them anyway. On the other hand, I'm all for wearing shoes that make you feel good, but everything in moderation. In today's video, I'll discuss how to wear high heels without foot pain or problems.
While fashion trends come and go, there are always new and cute high heels to attract women. The structure changes over time and it's cyclical. Sometimes a pointed toe is popular, then a rounded toe is in vogue, only to cycle around back to a pointed toe. Same goes for heel height and whether a stiletto or a chunkier heel is popular. Despite the current trends in high heels, some variations are healthier than others. Let's look at the numbers. Studies have shown that 75% of women wear high heels. Of these women, most only wear them on special occasions. 50% of them wear them out to dinner. And 30% of them wear high heels daily to work. Of the women wearing high heels, 59% report toe pain, and 54% say they have pain in the ball of their feet.
Indeed, wearing high heels, put your foot in an awkward position. They point your foot down and the toes flex up. All of your weight is forced on the ball of your foot and toes. No wonder half of women who wear high heels have pain there! The higher the heel, the more pressure shifts to your forefoot. The narrower the heel is, the less stable the shoes are on your feet.
Wearing high heels regularly can affect your foot health. They can contribute to developing certain foot conditions. Corns and calluses can form because some high heels crowd the toes. This pressure from the shoes can cause thick areas of dead skin to form on the toes. These lesions are known as corns. Also, because most of the pressure ends up on the ball of the foot, calluses can form in response to that increased pressure. Often calluses are not painful, but they can become painful with persistent pressure.
While bunions are generally not caused by high heels, the position that the shoe forces the big toe into can exacerbate a bunion deformity. The same goes for worsening of hammertoes. Wearing heels can cause them to worsen. The position of your feet and heels can cause plantar fasciitis to form.
Plantar fasciitis is an inflammation of the plantar fascia ligament that attaches to the heel bone. Wearing high heels puts extra tension on the plantar fascia ligament. This can cause it to become inflamed in the heel and the arch, which leads to pain. A hallmark of plantar fasciitis is pain with the first steps out of bed in the morning.
Because high heels run narrow and compress the foot, it's possible to develop a Morton's neuroma. This is an inflammation of a nerve in the forefoot, which provides significant pain in the ball of the foot. You may feel pain or numbness shooting into your toes also.
So what can you do to prevent pain and problems caused by high heels? Here are five strategies.
1. Wear more comfortable shoes when you're traveling to and from work. Wait until you get to work to put on your high heels.
2. Lower your heel height. Even a slightly lower heel height will reduce the pressure on the ball of your foot and on your toes. Aim for a heel height of three inches or less.
3. Choose a chunkier wedge heel over a thin stiletto. These shoes have an increased base of support and are more stable, and will lead to less stress on your feet. If your feet are able to work less hard, the chances of pain or problems will be reduced.
4. Choose the right type of toe box. Everyone's feet aren't shaped the same. While most women would do well to avoid pointed toes, some would do better with a rounded toe. Others would do better with a square toe. Still others will do best with an open toe. Know what's right for you and shop with that style in mind.
5 . Use padding in areas of pain and pressure. Most commonly, you may find a gel pad under the ball of your foot helpful to provide cushioning and shock absorption. Sometimes the toes need padding. Other times a pad in the arch will help. Tailor the padding based on how the shoe feels.