By: Kelly Ann Young, Physical Therapist Assistant
If you are like most women, you would love to wear beautiful high end heels such as Manolo Blahniks. But, are you thinking of the damage you could be causing your body? Lower back pain and degeneration of the spine, ankle injuries, and neck problems are just some potential difficulties the wearer could face. Wearing high heels often puts you at greater risk of developing arthritis in the knees. However, the biggest problems facing high heeled fashionistas are foot problems such as bunions, hammer toes, corns, calluses, neuromas, and blisters. About 80% of these patients end up needing surgery to correct their impairment.
Definitions of some common foot problems related to high heel wearing:
Bunions are bony protuberances at the base of the big toe. The most common cause of
bunions is hallux valgus or the angling of the big toe in towards the other toes. Bunions are most common in women, and the cause is usually wearing unsuitable footwear. (http://orthopedics.about.com/cs/footanklesurgery/g/bunion.htm)
A hammertoe is curled due to a bend in the middle joint of the toe. They are commonly caused by shoes that are too tight in the toe box or shoes that have high heels. This may cause your toe to be forced against the front of your shoe which results in an unnatural bending of your toe and a hammer-like or claw-like appearance. (http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/hammertoe-and-mallet-toe/DS00480)
Morton’s Neuroma is a foot condition caused from an abnormal function of the foot that leads to bones squeezing a nerve usually between the 3rd and 4th metatarsal heads. One cause can be from wearing pointed toes and/or high heels. Constricting shoes can pinch the nerve between the toes, causing discomfort and extreme pain. (http://www.thefootworksstore.com/mortons-neuroma-i-21.html)
Tips on wearing high heels:
- Try to keep the heel height as low as possible. Select heels no higher than 2 inches in height.
- Limit wearing time and change into flats when you can.
- Avoid pointed toe shoes. The pointed and small toe box can cramp the foot and toes leading to problems such as hammer toes, bunions, calluses, blisters, and neuromas. There should be at least ½ inch of space between your toes and the front of the shoe.
- Stretch your legs and lower back before and after wearing heels to avoid added strain on these areas. Massage your feet afterwards.
So before you step into those high heels for a night out on the town, consider the effects on your body and how to minimize them.