The Trouble with Heels
You're favourite stilletto's may be causing you foot pain, but they may also be affecting your ankles, knees and back if you where the wrong type or for too long. Here are 8 horrible things your stillettos may be doing to you.
1. BALL OF FOOT PAIN. Your upright foot is used to balancing on both it's front and it's back, so when you tilt it into your favorite black stilettos, it’s no wonder your forefoot starts to feel so much more pressure. This pain in the joints in the ball of the foot, known as metatarsalgia, can even lead to stress fractures over time. The good news is that you can easily decrease the pain by decreasing your heel’s height. Research shows that while three-inch heels put 76 percent of your foot’s pressure on your forefoot, two-inch heels decrease the pressure to about 57 percent, and one-inch heels lower it to 22 percent. That’s cutting the pain by more than half with a decrease of just two inches. It's worth investing in a few pairs of stillettos of varying heights, keeping the three inch ones for those really special occasions.
2. PLANTAR FASCIITIS. Your Achilles tendon, or the band of tissue stretching from the back of your heel all the way to your calf, lengthens and shortens with your foot movement. When you point your toes and your heel rises closer to your calf (like you do when wearing heels), your Achilles tendon shortens. But too much shortening is a bad thing. Because the Achilles connects to the plantar fascia, or the ligament that stretches along the bottom of your foot, shortening your Achilles tendon pulls on the plantar fascia, causing it stress. The result is a form of pain in your heel and arch known as plantar fasciitis.
3. TOE CRAMMING. Many popular high heels are not only tall, but narrow, too. The reason for that is because it makes our feet look smaller, and smaller feet are viewed in general as being more attractive. But when fashion starts to compromise foot function, there’s a problem. Women who regularly wear heels with narrow, pointy toes develop muscle imbalances, hammertoes, or bunions as a result of the pressure the shoes puts on their toes when they shove them together. Sometimes pointy toed-shoes can even irritate or inflame the nerves enough to cause nerve conditions in the feet that cause pinching and pain sensations. To avoid these, make sure to buy a shoe that doesn’t narrow too much at the toe, especially if it’s a heel.
4. SHOES TOO SMALL. Just as narrower feet are perceived as more attractive, so, too, are shorter feet, and some women are willing to sacrifice the comfort of their feet to make them appear smaller. According to WebMD, nine out of 10 women wear shoes that are too small, causing bunions, corns, and blisters, and irritating foot joints enough to potentially cause arthritis. If you’re going to wear a heel, make sure it’s a comfortable size for your foot; you’ll thank yourself later.
5. KNEE STRESS. Because your legs are pushed forward in high heels, your upper body is forced backward to counterbalance your lower body. Your lower back arches, your chest is pushed forward, and the normal “s-curve” of the spine, which typically acts as a shock absorber for the vertebrae, is shifted.. As a result, muscle overuse can lead to back pain, not to mention other issues like spondylolisthesis, or the crowding of vertebra over each other in the lower back, where weight is suddenly more concentrated in heels.
6. VARICOSE VEINS. When your legs move forward in heels to float over your toes, your calf muscles contract and stay contracted, instead of contracting and releasing as they usually do in lower-heeled shoes. As a result, your blood can’t use that regular calf muscle contraction as a pump to move up and out of your legs, and blood flow throughout your lower limbs slows down. When blood can’t escape your legs, it pools in veins that swell and rise into what are widely known as varicose veins.
7. POSTURE ISSUES. Because your legs are pushed forward in high heels, your upper body is forced backward to counterbalance your lower body. Your lower back arches, your chest is pushed forward, and the normal “s-curve” of the spine, which typically acts as a shock absorber for the vertebrae, is shifted. As a result, muscle overuse can lead to back pain, not to mention other issues like spondylolisthesis, or the crowding of vertebra over each other in the lower back, where weight is suddenly more concentrated in heels.
8. ANKLE STRENGTH. Maybe you’ve only just started wearing heels regularly and have yet to experience much pain at all. Unfortunately, that’s quite normal for women
who a few years later experience ankle injuries from high heels. A 2015 study in the International Journal of Clinical Practice showed that women who wore high-heeled shoes often actually strengthened their ankle muscles over the first one to three years through wearing the shoes, only to experience a weakening of the same muscles when they continued to wear them after that time period (for four years or more). Weak ankles detract from your dynamic balance, lessening your ability to avoid falling, spraining your ankle or otherwise hurting yourself. To protect your ankles and yourself while wearing heels, try practicing ankle-strengthening exercises on a regular basis, like “heel walking” (practicing balancing on your heels to walk) and “heel raises” (standing on your toes and raising and lowering your heels).