The first depictions of high heels date all the way back to ancient Egypt. Initially made popular by Persian male equestrians in the 1400’s (to help them stand up in their straps and aim firearms). They later became a fashion statement (for men), crossing over into Europe in the 1500’s and adopted by aristocratic men who felt that standing higher than others would be intimidating – and sort of scary. It was all about nobility, rather than comfort or mobility.
As the centuries wore on (no pun intended), high heels became a trend with women in positions of power or within a particular lineage. As such, this style reached new heights as the heel stems became narrower. Fast forward to the 1950’s and Christian Dior’s stilettos, when these increasingly painful high heels came to represent marked feminine sensuality and a new-found power of influence. For more history, photos and social trends, check out, Shoes: An Illustrated History, by Rebecca Shawcross.
Revising Your Posture about High Heels
Though not much has changed, it certainly needs to. We don’t ride about in horse-drawn carriages and most of us don’t have chauffeurs to offer a hand as we enter and exit our limousines. Women work hard, play hard, are more immersed in sports, travel and businesses of their own these days. Proper footwear choices are just too important to ignore, in fact trying to impress people by wearing painful high heels is not going to make you rise above anyone else.
That said, let’s explore some preventative measures which allow you to build a beautiful shoe collection, without damaging your legs, calves, ankles and feet!
- Do you even know your shoe size anymore? Most adult sizes will change during their lifetime. When’s the last time you were properly measured?
- A proper snug fit is essential to keep your feet firmly in place and prevent friction.
- See your podiatrist for an exam to determine your actual ‘foot type.’ It will be either high arched, or flat-footed, or normal. Your ‘type’ will define the support you need to prevent your foot from rolling inward (or outward) while walking and running. During this visit, find out if you should also be using heel inserts to cushion and absorb shock.
- Decrease the amount of time you wear your high heels. This will help to prevent longer term physical conditions. Try traveling to and from work in comfy sneakers instead, and bring along your high heels.
- Choose a lower, thicker, more comfortable heel. These will distribute your weight more evenly across your feet.
- If you must opt for higher heels – avoid narrow shoes with pointy toes. Choose platforms with thicker heels, more padding and less of a rise from your heels to your toes.
Foot Conditions from Wearing High Heels
Sore feet aren’t the only effects of wearing painful high heels; here are several issues which can develop as a result!
Corns and calluses (hyperkeratosis), Haglund’s deformity (aka pump bump), bunions, hammertoes, metatarsalgia (pain in ball of foot), plantar fasciitis (sole ligament), Morton’s neuroma; to name a few. You can read in more detail about the symptoms, causes and treatments of these afflictions on our site under Foot and Ankle Conditions.
And there’s more, lots more.
Knee, hip and back pain – High heels have less padding, which creates more friction; resulting in blisters and swelling. They will also force your feet to move in an unnatural way, throwing the entire weight of your body onto the front of your foot, and your toes. Your knees must constantly bend (to balance the weight), and are continually stressed while wearing high heels. You may find yourself experiencing back pain as your spine’s capability of absorbing shock is decreased.
Ankle sprain – Whenever you take an unsteady step, and your foot rolls to the outside, you can easily incur a lateral sprain. This means you’ve overstretched the ligaments in your ankle; if severe the ligaments may actually tear.
The Achilles tendon can shorten, thicken and become stiff if you’re consistently wearing painful high heels for long periods of the day or night. The subsequent inflammation can cause considerable pain. Just imagine, your Achilles tendon attaches your calf and lower leg muscles to your heel, and is the strongest tendon in your body – it needs a break!
Dr. Elizabeth E. Auger, DPM, has 3 popular locations in Utah for your convenience: Salt Lake City, Sandy, and West Jordan. She provides same day appointments – because when you need them, waiting just won’t do!