Can your shoes be hazardous to your health?
Sarah Jessica Parker’s character on the popular show Sex and the City, made Manolo Blahnik stilettos a household name and a very popular footwear choice among women. But shocking to Parker’s fans was her recent announcement that wearing high heels permanently ruined her feet and now she rarely wears heels by order of her physician.
“With higher shoes, your feet slip forward and the shoe tends to be more narrow which pushes toes into an unnatural position,” says Dr. Goldkind. “This may increase discomfort, especially if the shoes don’t fit properly in the first place.”
Wearing high heels on a regular basis over many years can cause muscles and tendons to permanently contract, making walking in flat shoes or even bare feet more difficult, he says.
Dr. Goldkind says the following are some common high heel-related injuries:
- Inflammation and swelling
- Nerve damage
- Pain in the ball of the foot
- Stress fractures
- Hammer toe formation
Longer term conditions such as arthritis in the toe and ankle joints can be exacerbated by excessive wearing of high heels, he says.
Goldkind recommends women look for shoes with padding in the forefoot area that cushions the toes and ball of the foot. Wider shoes that don’t overcrowd the toes are also preferred to also help maintain comfort.
“Walking in these shoes will change your gait pattern, which can affect your legs and back,” Dr. Golkind says. “Poor shock absorption of the shoes can also contribute to back pain.”
Dr. Goldkind says a few conservative treatment options include:
- Icing and taking anti-inflammatories helps decrease painful inflammation around the joint of the bunion
- Pads can also help take pressure off of the painful bunion bump which helps alleviate discomfort
- Custom orthotics can slow the progression of the deformity down, but will not correct the deformity
Dr. Goldkind says the best option is to choose the most comfortable shoe for your foot, avoiding the painful (yet fashionable) heels when possible. If all conservative options fail, surgery is the last resort to re-align the joint and decrease pain which often means weeks of recovery.
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health enews staff is a group of experienced writers from our Advocate Aurora Health sites, which also includes freelance or intern writers.