The history of questionable fashion trends and beauty practices dates back thousands of years. We have all heard of Chinese Foot Binding, which was used to make the foot appear smaller and prettier. While wearing shoes with sky-high heels is less extreme, people who wear them regularly can pay a physical price. Heel heights greater than 2 inches have the potential to cause problems. The elevated heel, forces the ball of the foot to bear significantly more pressure with each step than a normal footfall. Helping to absorb that extra force are the connective tissues in the feet and the heads of the delicate metatarsal bones. Narrow, pointed toe boxes can cause abnormal forces on the toes as well. Regular use of high heels can cause structural changes to the foot, leading to conditions that require surgical intervention, such as bunions or hammertoes. Standing and walking in heels can also lead to a painful condition known as metatarsalgia, in which the soft tissues in the ball of the foot become inflamed. At the same time, raising a wearer’s heels prevents the muscles of the calf, as well as the Achilles tendon, from stretching to their full length. This can cause excessive strain on the soft tissues in the heel area leading to Achilles tendonitis and plantar fasciitis. . Studies have shown that this foreshortening of muscles and tendons can become permanent in people who habitually wear high heels. So can the changes to posture, gait and balance that this type of footwear causes. Because high heels alter the center of gravity, wearers are forced to arch their lower backs to maintain balance, often leading to back pain. In addition to structural damage, high heels are the culprits in thousands of emergency room visits each year. A study published in 2015 found that emergency rooms treated 123,355 injuries incurred by wearing high heels over a 10-year period. So what’s a style-conscious person to do? Choose shoes with lower heels and generous padding. If needed, add cushioned inserts. Custom foot orthoses may be needed for some to wear high heels comfortably. Alternate heel heights regularly. Add foot raises and a gentle Achilles tendon stretch to your regular workout routine. And when you do wear heels, steer clear of the ER by taking extra care walking, especially on steps and uneven surfaces. If you need advice on appropriate foot wear, come in to see us for specific recommendations
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