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Sharp Health News

Health hazards of high heels

Feb. 29, 2016

Health hazards of high heels

The right pair of shoes can make or break an outfit, but the wrong pair of shoes could break, sprain or strain something.

Dr. Benjamin Cullen, a podiatrist affiliated with Sharp Memorial Hospital, suggests considering your health when selecting a shoe.

"Saying it is OK for women to wear heels would be like a dentist telling you it was OK to eat candy," Dr. Cullen says. "While it will not be the end of the world for our overall health, wearing heels is not recommended for any length of time."

According to Dr. Cullen, although heels are not the root of foot problems, they exacerbate underlying issues. "They significantly contribute to bunions, hammer toes, pinched nerves, heel pain, ankle sprains and more," says Dr. Cullen. "More than three-quarters of patients who see podiatrists are women, and shoe gear is a huge factor in that."

However, asking women to never wear heels is equal to asking people to never eat candy again. Although with extraordinarily strong will it is possible, it is unlikely to stop most people.

If you have to wear heels, Dr. Cullen recommends the following, and for no more than an hour at a time:

  • Wear wedges; do not wear stilettos
  • Wear 1- to 2-inch heels — anything higher puts a lot of stress on the ball of the foot
  • Wear heels that allow your toes to spread out; do not wear shoes that squish your foot into a pointed toe

Still not ready to throw out your favorite strappy shoe? Consider this: Dr. Cullen suggests tracing your foot standing flat and then, over that image, placing the shoe you plan to wear. The major difference between where your foot naturally wants to be and where you are stuffing it in for hours should demonstrate the pressure you are putting on your feet and toes.

For those who do wear heels, Dr. Cullen offers three ways to avoid injuries like calf contractures, which are common when wearing heels for a long period:

  • Regularly perform calf stretches
  • Place pads just behind the ball of the foot to reduce pressure
  • Bring a pair of flats as an option when your feet need a rest

Dr. Cullen notes that he frequently has this discussion with his own family, but offers that, as with all things, "Moderation is key."

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