Are high heels bad for your feet?

Are high heels bad for your feet?

It’s no secret that many people sacrifice comfort to look stylish. Unfortunately, great style can sometimes come at the price of our health. A great example of this is the many women who forgo foot comfort to wear a pair of fashionable high heels.

While you may love how they make you look and feel, high heels can be a big source for foot problems.

Before you slip on another pair of high heels, read how they can cause foot problems and tips to help save your feet:

Wearing high heels can cause pain

  • Bunions:  This unsightly growth on the top and inside of your big toe contorts it to angle toward your second toe. Many high heels have pointed toes which put more pressure on the bunion. Bunions are largely genetic, but heels don’t help.
  • Toe problems:  Heels often crowd your toes into the front of your shoe, leading to problems. Your big toe may cross over the second toe, causing pain on top of the second toe as well as the bottom of the foot. Or you can get hammertoes if the tightness causes your joints to buckle. Wearing high heels for prolonged periods can lead to permanently deformed toes.
  • Arch pain and plantar fasciitis: High heels can trigger arch and heel pain. If it hurts when you slip on your shoes, you may have plantar fasciitis – an inflamed plantar fascia. This thick ligament-like structure on the sole of your foot attaches to your heel and the ball of your foot to stabilize your arch. High heels rarely have arch supports, so the plantar fascia has to work harder to support your foot. The higher the heel, the more strain on your plantar fascia. Plantar fasciitis is very painful and can take weeks or months to heal.
  • Neuroma: When high heels squeeze your toes together, it puts increased pressure on your nerves. Inflamed nerves can result – called a neuroma – causing tingling and numbness in your toes. Neuromas occur most often between the third and fourth toes but can happen between any toes.
  • Achilles tendonitis: If you wear high heels a lot, your Achilles tendon shortens to conform to your raised heel. Then, when you wear regular shoes or go barefoot, your Achilles tendon has to stretch to stand flat footed. As a result, your Achilles tendon becomes inflamed and painful.
  • Sprains, strains, back aches and broken bones: High heels and platforms can be clumsy to navigate. Sprained or strained ankles are commonplace. Getting your heel stuck in a grate can result in a serious tumble, possibly even broken bones. Wearing heels also changes your posture, putting extra pressure on your back and knees. So if your back is killing you, you might want to try kicking off those heels.

Tips to save your feet

  • Don’t wear high heels every day – save them for special occasions. Carry them with you to the big event and slip them on when you get there.
  • Go barefoot whenever you can during the day (while at your desk, for example).
  • Frequently switch shoes so your feet don’t get conformed to one position.
  • Opt for heels no higher than two inches to decrease pressure on the front of your foot. Better yet, look for stylish flats.
  • Have your shoes properly fitted. A wrong fit can cause blisters, calluses and other problems.
  • Walk and exercise regularly in workout shoes to keep the muscles in your feet strong.

Dr. Thurmond D. Lanier is a podiatrist at Aurora Health Center in Fond du Lac, Wis.

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About the Author

Dr. Thurmond Lanier
Dr. Thurmond Lanier

Thurmond D. Lanier, DPM is a Podiatrist at Aurora Health Center in Fond du Lac, WI.