By Anna Sachse
Want to know the number one trend in women’s foot fashion this winter? Well, just imagine an actual supermodel attached to the bottom of a shoe i.e. heels that are ridiculously tall (at least four inches) and frighteningly skinny. The shoe itself might be a fringed and tasseled purple suede bootie or it could be a strappy snakeskin cage sandal with a zipper up the front, but the heel must be a soaring stiletto.
Honestly, I love me some hot heels because they do wonders for how my legs and figure look. But the truth is that they’re crap for your feet and the long-term consequences of wearing them are far from pretty.
For starters, wearing towering heels pushes your center of mass forward, forcing your hips and spine out of alignment. Not only does this “S” shape F up your posture and lead to back pain, it puts excess force on the inside of the knee, as much as an additional 26 percent, and can lead to osteoarthritis, which is twice as common in women.
This unnatural weight redistribution also exponentially increases the pressure on your forefoot: a one-inch heel will increase it by 22 percent; two inches by 57 percent; and three inches by 76 percent. A common consequence is metatarsalgia, a condition characterized by pain in the part of your foot that takes the brunt of the force when you push off while walking, running or jumping. Rest, ice, insoles and arch supports may help it to feel better, but the number one piece of advice is to lay off the medieval torture-esque shoes.
As for your footwear itself, the rigid backs and straps that are there to keep those improbable shoes on your feet are also annoying to the Achilles tendon region. Irritate that soft tissue enough and it may eventually lead to a bony enlargement attractively known as “Haglund’s deformity” or “pump bump.” Irritate the bump and you’ll get bursitis, an inflammation of the fluid-filled sac between the tendon and bone. Although there are non-surgical ways to reduce the pain and inflammation, once the bony enlargement is there, the only way to get rid of it is by going under the knife.
This warning is basically the same for a number of other foot conditions. Heel height that crams the toes down into a tapered toe box can lead to Morton’s neuroma. This compression causes the nerve at the base of the third and fourth toes to swell and eventually the tissue around it begins to enlarge and thicken. Ignore it and your prize will be permanent nerve damage.
In addition, a narrow toe box contributes to the constant bending of one or both joints of your toes a.k.a. hammertoes. The more rigid these deformed toes get over time, the more likely they are to cause painful corns on or between your toes, and calluses on the bottom of your toes and feet. Hammertoes are progressive in nature and never go away without intervention.
Tight-fitting shoes can also force your big toe to lean toward your second toe, which throws the bones out of alignment and produces a bump at the base of the big toe. This is a bunion. My grandma had them bad and her feet looked freakish. Bunions will also make it more likely that you will experience calluses on your big toe, sores between your toes and ingrown toenails. They don’t go away and will usually get worse over time. Changing your footwear might slow it down and orthotics might relieve some of the pressure, but you may end up needing surgery to restructure the bones.
Or you could just not wear stupid shoes.
Sources: www.mayoclinic.com; www.footphysicians.com, www.kschiro.com, www.foothealth.about.com.