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Damage from high heels even worse for baby boomer women’s feet

By Rita R. Robison, Consumer Specialist

Neal Blitz, M.D., foot surgeon, asks the question "Are high heels really bad for your feet?" in a recent Huffington Post article.

Stilettos-heels-b[1] The answer is a resounding yes, he said, adding common problems associated with high heels and pointy toe shoes are bunions, hammer toes, and tight calf muscles.

While these painful problems sound awful, it’s even more likely baby boomer women in their 40s, 50s, and 60s will experience them.

As women age, their feet change. Wearing high heels can be much less comfortable due to these changes. Loss of fat in the bottom of the foot is one common change.

When boomer women step down in high heels, their weight is thrown on the spot where they have less protection, Morris Morin, D.M.P., director of podiatric medicine at the Hackensack University Medical Center, said in the Good Housekeeping article "Foot Pain and High Heels."

This causes pain and may increase the risk of stress fractures and osteoarthritis in the feet, Morin said.

While some doctors recommend repadding the foot using injections of silicone or wrinkle filling injections such Restalyne, the American Orthopedic Foot and Ankle Society warns against these and other cosmetic procedures for the feet. Calling the trend alarming, it warns consumers that risks – including infection, nerve injury, and difficulty walking – often outweigh benefits.

A better idea is the use of heavily padded insoles, said Morin.

A study at Manchester Metropolitan University of 80 women aged 20 to 50 who had been wearing heels of at least 2 inches almost daily for two years or more showed changes in their feet.

When compared with women who didn’t wear heels, ultrasounds revealed the women had calf muscle fibers that were 13 percent shorter, and MRIs showed the Achilles tendon, which attaches the heel bone to the calf muscle, was stiffer and thicker.

Shoes that hurt your feet aren’t good for you, Johanna Youner, D.M.P., a spokeswoman for the American Podiatric Medical Association, said in the article "Those To-Die-For High Heels May Alter Anatomy."

The association’s recommendation for the best shoe for women? A walking shoe with laces, not a slip-on, that has a polymerized composition sole and a wider heel with a rigid and padded heel counter, no more than three-quarters of an inch in height.

See the association’s "Footwear" for a list of tips for buying shoes. In addition, the association offers the APMA Seal of Acceptance for shoes and shoe products it thinks allow for normal foot function and promote quality foot health.

Copyright 2011, Rita R. Robison, Consumer Specialist

Comments

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kids footwear

Misshapen heels, puffy heels, and chafed heels are all common enough, but they may do better inside an enclosed pump than showing out the back of a strappy, mule, or slingback.

David Schillo

Are high heels really bad for your feet? Wearing heels forces your ankles to bend forward, like you're standing on your tiptoes. Heels can also cause back and knee problems. For your body to stay balanced on heels, your spine needs to sway unnaturally, which adds stress to the muscles in your spine.

Rita

Hi David,

Thanks for your comment. Yes, high heels are really bad for your feet, as you've indicated. I wish women would stop wearing them. High heels just keep getting taller and taller -- and more dangerous.

Those wedgie high heels with the very thick soles may be even more hazardous.

Rita

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