High heeled shoes are more popular than ever, and many women often ask, "Can wearing heels really be bad for my body?" Regular wearers of high heels who do experience foot, back, or knee problems also wonder if there is any way they can comfortably wear the stylish shoes they love. Podiatrists and orthopedic specialists often see firsthand some of the problems that develop from wearing high-heeled shoes.
Studies have shown that high heeled shoes create excess pressure on the plantar surface, or sole of the foot, which can lead to metatarsalgia (ball of the foot pain), excess stress on foot joints, and painful calluses. The higher the heel is, the more probability that muscular imbalances are occurring while walking in the shoes -- causing certain leg and foot muscles to work too hard. These imbalances can lead to problems such as knee pain, heel pain (plantar fasciitis), and hammer toes.
Sometimes an occasion calls for a great-looking pair of heels, but no one wants to sacrifice their health and well-being for fashion. The following celebrity photos identify common mistakes women make in choosing heels, helping to guide you toward choosing better shoes for your comfort and health.
Mistake # 1 - The Shoe Doesn't Fit
Notice the gap between the shoe and the wearer's heel and arch areas -- it likely indicates a shoe that is too long and too wide. This can cause the foot to shift around in the shoe while walking and will surely lead to pain and discomfort. In this case, she probably chose a style that was too wide for her foot.
You may be surprised to learn that your shoe size has changed over the years. A change in foot size can often be attributed to hormonal changes and natural changes in soft tissue that occur with aging. The next time you shop for shoes, be sure to measure your feet for both length and width. Be aware that the right size shoe may not always be a good fit, so it helps to try on a few different styles until you find the most comfortable fit. For more information, see: How to Find Shoes that Fit
Mistake #2 - Extreme Height
Mistake #3 - Not Enough Coverage
Mistake #4 - Toe Torture
Seeing the way the toes are squeezed into these pointy-toed shoes is painful to observe. Besides the toes being pushed into a cramped space, there is an issue with the shoe's toe material not covering enough of the toes. This forces the toes to work harder at maintaining stability, possibly contributing to toe contractures, such as hammer toes. A better choice is a shoe that has more material across the toes and more of a rounded toe box. Another toe problem that can be aggravated by high-heeled shoes is a bunion deformity.
Smita Rao PT, PhD and Renata Ripa, MA. (2011) Pretty Pathways to Pain: Muscle activation in high-heeled shoes. Lower Extremity Review. Nov;(3)11. pp. 18-23.
Jenny L. Sanders, DPM. (2011) When Patients Insist On Wearing High Heels. Podiatry Today. June; (24)6. pp. 38-44.