No other shoe symbolises liberty, sexuality, sophistication and style as much as the high-heel. For centuries, women have attributed a feeling of power and status upon wearing them and their intimate relationship continues.
But according to a recent UK survey, an estimated eight million – a third of the adult female population – regularly wear high heels and five million suffer pain. Trent Baker from the Australian Podiatry Association (NSW&ACT) says despite the staggering statistics, women aren’t prepared to step down from their towering heel heights let alone swap them for sensible shoes.
“The reality is that most women who are habitual high heel wearers will not change to more sensible shoes until they have a serious deformity or injury that forces them to change,” he said. “Even then we seem to negotiate foot wear strategies where we broker a deal that they wear sensible flat, broad accommodative foot wear to work and throughout their day and save the high heels for special occasions.
“However I get the feeling that special occasions include, lunch, dinner and generally any social event. In all seriousness though, it is very hard for women to change foot wear habits. It’s easy for men, fashion dictates we wear lace up shoes and socks all year, whereas women in many work environments unfortunately have to adhere to certain dress rules. Very unfair but it is the reality. I think this is an area that needs change.”
Mr Baker understands the predicament women are in, with many required to wear heels in the workplace, but he says the key to reducing long term damage is balance.
“I do feel that moderation is the key,” he says. “If the high heeled shoes can be limited to special occasions perhaps once or twice a week this would be the optimal situation. However the reality is that women in some situations need to wear heels more often.
“If this is the case then I would encourage women to consider compromise on the style of shoes they are wearing. For example looking for a less pointy toe area and a lower heel no more than around 2cm-3cm would be a great start.”
So what actually happens to our feet when wearing heels?
“When you put a high heeled shoe on your feet the heels are obviously raised, this leads to knee flexion throughout gait, the forefoot is over loaded, toes are cramped, hips and pelvis are out of alignment, you buttocks sticks out and it creates a curvature of the spine. This does’t sound so crash hot does it?”
Some of the short term health risks associated with wearing high heels on a daily basis include general foot, knee and back pain, also blisters and toe nail complications such as ingrown nails which are very painful. Long term complications include permanent digital deformities such as hammer toes, bunions and associated corns and callus. These deformities can lead to degenerative joint changes and immobility. Another long term risk of high heel wearing is shortening of the calf muscles creating serious functional issues within the lower limb.
So what about swapping a platform heel for a kitten? At least kitten heels are low right? Well according to Trent they have a tendancy to be very narrow and can cause great instability in the ankle.
And there are numerous brands offering fashionable sensible shoes on the market now, but Mr Baker believes it’s more important for women to start thinking outside the box a bit when it comes to foot wear fashion.
“A shoe that has a heel no more than 2cm-3cm in height more like a wedge with a wide base is a great start,” he said. “The upper needs to be enclosed through the heel cup and deep enough to accommodate your foot comfortably and with stability. An adjustable strap over the top of your foot to secure you into the shoe is a great addition.”
Are heels a part of your daily ritual? Or are you a fan of fashionable sensible footwear? We’d love to hear from you. Email me direct; firstname.lastname@example.org
For more information or to seek professional podiatry care, visit podiatry.asn.au