As far back as 1000 BC, women wore heels to establish social status and sex appeal. In addition to making us look great, they also cause a woman's back to arch and chest to thrust out giving a super sexy "come-hither" stance. But current statistics show that 43 million Americans experience painful foot problems and high-heeled women comprise the vast majority of them. For every five women in the US, one suffers from aching feet as a result of donning heels.
Expert podiatrist and global "foot whisperer", Phil Vasyli of Orthaheel notes the following issues as a result of wearing high heels and adds feedback on how to choose better shoes and save high heels for special occasions, not everyday wear.
What most women do not know is that their most fabulous shoes render all of their other efforts to maintain sexy legs and pretty toes utterly useless. Misshapen legs, arched backs, falling in ankles and knees, and foot deformities such as hammertoes, bunions, stress fractures, and Morton's Neuroma, are all caused by excessively high heels. In addition, "pump bump" is a bony enlargement on the back of the heel from pressure and rubbing due to women's pumps and dress shoes. Not sexy.
Lacking in arch support, excess pronation is common amongst high heel wearers and is the number one cause of heel, ankle, knee, hip, and lower back pain, and also potential foot and leg deformities, as described above.
Our genetic makeup was designed to walk on soft surfaces - soil, sand, and grass, which acts as a cradling device to help hold the foot and maintain an ergonomic structure between the ground and the human body. Walking in heels on a hard sidewalk leads to foot and arch collapse, pronation, and a lengthening of soft tissues. This causes the joint surfaces to function at unnatural angles to each other, leaving the joints to become loose and flexible. The lower leg turns inward, which puts the knee and hip out of alignment and causes the back to be rotated or arched.
Back out of Whack
High heels can cause posture problems because the back and neck are forced to hyperextension due to the redistribution of body weight on the ball of the foot.
Consider these tips from Vasyli to make healthier decisions:
High heels are not (necessarily) bad for your feet, but set your limits. The normal human body was not intended to walk in high heels, so the most logical thing is to either not wear them or better, to save them for special occasions or the weekend. If you want to wear a heel, the best option is to aim for a 1.5" to 2" heel with a wedge sole, more importantly with some contact with the arch.
Yoga for High Heels. Pelvic tilts and calf stretches will minimize any muscle cramping and shortening. Also, commit to stretching the muscles in the back of your leg before and after putting them on.
Orthotics, the Less(er) Evil. An orthotic is very similar to a human footprint which has ergonomic structure to reverse the angles of excess pronation and add needed support at that high level. Orthotics also help keep the arch contours in place in lower heeled shoes.
Shop! Buy a wide variety of shoes, including sneakers, oxfords, and sandals, and vary your footwear day to day. Look for the APMA seal of acceptance for the best options or go to their website, APMA.org, for a selection of brands. Buy shoes in the afternoon or evening, as feet swell during the day.