The lowdown on high heels | Health Beat

The lowdown on high heels | Health Beat
Longer high heels—those about 2 inches or more—may increase the likelihood of pain in the feet, ankles and legs. (For Corewell Health Beat)

Whether it’s a fancy evening out, a business interview or just a formal choice for the office that day, high heels have long held a place in fashion.

But aside from the style statement they might make, there are few positive aspects to this popular footwear.

“The bottom line is high heels are not good for your feet and women should try to avoid them,” Marisha Stawiski, DPM, a Corewell Health podiatrist and board-certified foot and ankle surgeon, said.

Of course, high heels aren’t likely to disappear from wardrobes any time soon.

“Realistically, not all women are going to stop using them,” Dr. Stawiski said. “So, it’s important to know what problems they can cause and how to mitigate these potential ailments.”

The reason high heels cause so many problems? They create an unnatural position and gait.

High heels change the biomechanics of the foot.

They alter the way the foot is supposed to function and they create an unnatural way of walking. They completely change the individual’s normal step or stride.

Among the problems high heels cause: plantar fasciitis, an inflammation of the plantar fascia as it connects to the heel bone, and Achilles tendonitis, a painful condition stemming from overuse of the Achilles tendon.

Studies show that high heels—when worn day after day—can cause strains that create hip, knee, foot and ankle problems, Dr. Stawiski said.

They can also cause pain and numbness in the ball of the foot and they can aggravate arthritis.

And, in many cases, high heels are usually too tight or too narrow, causing calluses and blisters.

Tips for wear

There’s not much women can do to completely avoid the problems associated with high heel use, but there are ways to mitigate them, Dr. Stawiski said.

First: Don’t skimp on the shoes.

Buy a high-quality pair of high heels with memory foam and arch support.

But even with better shoes, it’s still a good idea to wear them less frequently. Don’t walk or stand in them too often, and don’t wear them every day.

If you have to wear them in an office setting for work, carry them in a bag from the parking lot to your desk and then put them on while you sit, Dr. Stawiski said.

Also, when choosing a pair to buy, opt for something with smaller heels. A 1- to 1 1/2-inch heel is much better than a 3- or 4-inch stiletto.

Carefully choose where and when you wear them—and how often.

“As Socrates once said, when our feet hurt, we hurt all over,” Dr. Stawiski said. “Pain can affect your well-being, happiness, productivity and mood. Therefore, trying to wear shoes that foster a pain-free foot is highly encouraged and recommended.”