Style First, Or Suffer Later?
Yes, that perfect pair of 4-inch stiletto heels can make your outfit, yet this style pick can bring you much pain in your lower back, spine, and joints such as your hips, knees, ankles. Dr. Aham Onyike, Orthopedic Surgeon at the Center for Advanced Specialty Surgery, shares how prolonged wear of high heels can affect you over time, and solutions to help you steer clear from injury and walk with your best foot forward!
1. The higher your heels, the more pressure that is put on the ball of your foot. 1-inch heels puts 22% of your body weight on the ball of your foot, versus 3-inch heels which puts 76%! This means the lower part of your body will naturally lean forward more to compensate, which causes your upper body to lean back and overarch your back. The result is bad poture, which leads to lower back and knee pain.
2. As you wear high heels, especially those above 2 inches in height, your body attempt to compensate by forward bending your spine and hips. Over time, the normal s-curvature of the spine, which acts as a shock absorber, begins to flatten. When this happens, your body anatomy changes, and a condition such as spondylolisthesis occurs, which means one vertebrae in your back slipping forward over another.
3. Extended wear of high heels can cause your toes bending in an unnatural position, which means you’re at risk of ingrown toe nails and damage to leg tendons.
4. Pointed toe heels cause your feet to cramp themselves into a narrow toe box. This spells out nerve damage, calluses, hammertoes, or plantar fascitis, which means numbness, tingling, or burning in the bottom of your foot due to swollen tissue.
6. Back pain. Lots of it. The change in position of your spine puts pressure on nerves in the back and can cause sciatica, a condition where nerves become trapped. This triggers numbness and pain that worsens over time.
HIGH HEEL SOLUTIONS
1. If you must wear heels, invest in shoes with soft, leather insoles. This prevents your foot from slipping and reduces impact on your knees.
2. Try to limit heel height to 1 1/2 inches inches or less. Remember, the higher the heels, the more of your body weight that is being carried on the ball of your foot.
3. Alternate your shoe choice through the day or from one day to the next. Wear athletic or walking shoes for commuting to and from work, to give your feet a rest.
4. Stretch your leg muscles before and after wearing heels. One example it to sit on a flat surface or mat with your feet straight in front of you, reach for your toes, and hold the stretch for at least 20 seconds. Repeat three times. This helps to stretch the back of the legs, eases tightness and discomfort.
5. Buy shoes in the afternoon, when your feet are at their largest. This way, when you wear them at the start of the day in the morning, they are more likely to feel comfortable.
A final word from Dr. Onyike:
You feet are literally your body’s base of support. It is possible to be stylish and pain free, and it starts with new choices in your shoe selection. If your feet are not happy, everything above them follow suit. Ensure you balance lower heels with flats, wear insoles, and stretch your way to fashionably happier feet.
By Dr. Aham Onyike