High Heels: How Bad Are They for Your Feet?

With the holiday season in full swing, we’d like to make a plea on behalf of your feet before you put on those pumps and head out the door. And before you stop reading this because “that’s just not going to happen,” please take just a few minutes to allow your feet to be heard above the holiday cheer.

Here at Animas Foot and Ankle, more and more women walk through our doors at our six New Mexico locations with progressive, and sometimes irreversible, foot problems that can be traced back to prolonged time spent in high heels. While we understand that high heels are the height of fashion, we’d like to make a case for healthy feet being more fashionable than your footwear.

We’re not going to try and convince you out of wearing high heels altogether, but we’re going to outline some of the problems that high-heeled shoes pose and suggest some alternatives that won’t be a crime against fashion.

The large burden they bear

Think about the size of your feet in relation to your body. These comparatively tiny appendages support your entire weight, provide mobility and balance, and are first in line when it comes to impact. It would be no exaggeration to say that the human foot is an engineering marvel, and like most engineering marvels, it relies on everything else in your body to function as designed, also.

To accomplish this, your feet contain one-quarter of the bones in your body, along with more than 100 ligaments, tendons, and muscles, that all work together to provide you with support, balance, and range of motion. When you stand, walk, or run, each of these components jumps into action in an astonishing team effort that allows you to make your way through the world.

The snowball effect

Because of the complexity of your feet, if one small area is compromised, the cascading effect it has over the entire structure can be enormous. For example, if you’ve got a cut on the bottom of one toe, you favor that toe and place more pressure on the surrounding areas to pick up the slack. After even just one hour of limping, you begin to understand how much this new “gait” is hurting uninjured areas on your feet.

Now here comes the bad news: High heels are far more destructive than a small cut on the bottom of your toe. When you move, your feet are designed to hit the ground heel first and then slowly roll up to the balls of your feet in order to push off for another stride. When you put on your high heels, you hamper how your foot pushes off.

In addition to not allowing your foot to roll properly, high heels redistribute your weight (improperly) and increase the load on your forefoot by as much as 75%, a load your forefeet were simply not designed for. This not only causes problems in your feet, but in your ankles, knees, and hips, as well.

Down to your toes

On top of creating problems with your gait, as well as uneven loading forces, high-heeled shoes can wreak havoc on your toes, and they often contribute, and sometimes cause, issues like bunions, hammertoes, and ingrown toenails. In extreme cases, you can develop tiny stress fractures, which eventually lead to arthritis.

A matter of balance

Keeping in mind the three primary roles of your feet, support, balance, and mobility, let’s return for a moment to the size of your feet compared to these three awesome tasks, especially balance. Now throw high heels into the mix and you’ve narrowed an already small point of balance for your body to something even smaller — teetering heels.

Meeting us halfway

In an ideal podiatric world, you’d throw out your heels and never wear them again. But, we’re realists and we know that wearing sneakers with that little black dress to your next holiday event isn’t likely. That said, there are ways to minimize the damage that a pair of stilettos can cause.

For example, we’d ask that you consider lowering the height of your heels and perhaps going with a wedge style that gives you more ground area to work with. As well, platform heels do the job of lifting without forcing your foot into a position that ballet dancers would admire.

Custom orthotics are also helpful in balancing your feet, and we make them thin enough to insert in many dress shoes.

Lastly, we’re still going to try and get you to go flat. We’re not exactly experts in fashion footwear, but we are experts in feet, and there are hundreds, if not thousands, of cute flats that will complement any outfit. And who doesn’t love an evening out without aching feet to show for it?

If you have any questions about how high heels can negatively impact your feet, please feel free to call one of our offices or schedule an appointment using the online booking tool.









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