High heel shoes might make you look glamorous, but they can cause some crippling foot problems over time.
While high heels can give you a statuesque appearance, they can push your weight forward onto your toes, change your walking pattern, and cause many other health problems.
Think of the difference in the gait between someone wearing trainers and someone teetering about on 10cm stilettos. It is not difficult to see why high heels could do damage to your feet.
If you wear high heels to go dancing once in a blue moon, you are unlikely to experience ill effects. But if you wear them every day, you are likely to regret it very seriously later on in life.
When the foot is put in an angle and the weight is shifted forward, the body is not centered, according to the American Osteopathic Association. This pulls muscles and joints out of alignment, which can, in turn, cause back, neck and shoulder pain.
So, taken from the toes upwards, just how can high heels damage your feet?
The change in your posture and the redistribution of your weight when you wear high heels put pressure on your toes. Even a 5cm heel increases the pressure on the ball of your foot by 52 percent. This can lead to hammer toe deformities, bunions, callouses and sometime ingrown toenails.
The ball of the foot
The increased pressure on this area can strain the metatarsal bones in the foot, and cause a common and painful overuse injury called metatarsalgia. This can eventually lead to a stress fracture.
The heel and ankle
High heels can also damage the Achilles heel and the plantar fascia (tendon in the heel that is connected to the calf muscle). The Achilles heel, as well as the plantar fasciae, can shorten, leading in turn to a weakened calf muscle. If the pad of your heel is constantly pressed onto a hard surface (such as the inside of most high-heeled shoes) it can also weaken the arch of your foot. In some people this shortening is so pronounced that they become unable to wear flat shoes, or to walk barefoot.
Sprains and fractures
Walking at an angle can affect your balance and increase your risk of falling. This can cause both ankle sprains and fractures. Studies show that women who regularly wear 10cm high heels, have weakened ankles after only a few weeks.
By Susan Erasmus
1. American Osteopathic Association
2. International Journal of Clinical Practice
3. American Orthopaedic Foot and Ankle Society
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