High heels will always be fashionable — but anyone wearing them should exercise caution. For starters, there’s the risk of falling over or spraining an ankle, but heels are also responsible for many foot problems, such as bunions, corns, hammertoes and plantar fasciitis.
Why Does Wearing Heels Cause So Many Foot Problems?
You look good in your new ankle-strap stiletto heels — and you feel more attractive and feminine. They may not be as comfortable as a pair of flats, but the pain will soon go away — won’t it?
Unfortunately, that’s the pay-off: repeatedly wearing high heels leads to foot problems. The uneven loading of weight exerts a lot of pressure on the ball of the foot, putting strain on other joints and ultimately resulting in discomfort and pain.
High heels limit the ankle’s range of motion and cause the knees to stay bent and turn slightly inward. This wear and tear on the joints can worsen arthritis and affect your posture.
Wearing high heels also often causes toe injuries, as it crumples the toes together in a tight V shape, resulting in ingrown toenails, bunions and hammer toe.
Common Foot Problems
Bunions are bony lumps that form on the side of the foot at the base of the big toe. Although they affect people with a genetic predisposition, high heels and ill-fitting shoes aggravate the situation.
Bunions cause severe pain and dislocated joints. Unfortunately, getting rid of bunions isn’t easy. Only surgery removes them entirely.
Caused by wearing heels or tight shoes, Morton’s neuroma is when the tissue around the nerve in the ball of your foot (between the third and fourth toes) is thicker. This often causes discomfort when pressure is applied. The condition commonly affects women, athletes and people with naturally high arches or flat feet.
Practitioners often advise the RICE method for treatment (rest, ice, compression and elevation) and not wearing heels for a while, but a foot specialist may recommend heat therapy, steroid injections or surgery.
This is a common foot problem where the plantar fascia (the ligament at the bottom of the foot) becomes inflamed. The condition can be caused by wearing heels, as weight is distributed unevenly and puts strain on the foot’s arch. This shortens the Achilles tendon, which can increase the risk of plantar fasciitis.
Plantar fasciitis is managed by rest, ice, supportive shoes and low-impact exercises such as swimming. For severe cases, steroid injections and custom orthotics can also help.
Surgery is the last resort, and only if the condition doesn’t improve after six to 12 months.
Toe deformities can happen in many ways (including genetics, injury, arthritis or wearing heels). Examples include hammer toe, where the toe points down, causing pain and reducing movement, and cross-over (overlapping) toe, where the second toe drifts towards the big toe and overlaps it.
Stretching exercises and wearing special shoes help realign toe deformity, but surgery may be needed to permanently correct it. A podiatrist will reposition the tendons and ligaments and remove pieces of bone to straighten the toe. After surgery, physio is vital for two to six weeks.
Have you ever wondered how professionals dance so well in high heels? Apparently, Beyonce started dancing in stilettos when she was 12. That’s a lot of practice.
We mere mortals have all had a sprain — a sudden twist or turn, stretching the tissue in the ankle. And whether dancing or not, high heels can throw you off balance, leading to a higher chance of a nasty sprain.
Sprains cause pain, swelling, tenderness and weakness in the ankle. This is usually treated with RICE and painkillers, but physio can help if the pain and weakness persist for longer than a few weeks. If you’re concerned about an ankle sprain, make an appointment with a local foot and ankle specialist.
It’s a wonderful feeling to arrive home from a night out, kick off the heels and place our feet flat on terra firma. We love our heels, but we also love taking them off. If we wear heels too often, we deprive our feet of recovery time, leading to complications.