High Heels: The Height of Foot Deformities
Aching feet, shortened calf muscles may be the price of looking stylish
(HealthDay News) -- A woman may love the way that high heels make her body look, but rest-assured, her body doesn't share that love of stylish footwear.
"A heel will make a woman's butt stick out and make the body look taller, thinner," Dr. Johanna Youner, a spokeswoman for the American Podiatric Medical Association, told HealthDay. "Society pushes us to look a certain way, and all women want to look attractive."
"In reality, it can be crippling, and it is literally changing the shape of the body," she said.
As for high heels? They "look beautiful, but the body isn't meant to wear them," said Youner, who's a podiatrist in New York City. "There is no way around it. You put on heels, you are going to deform your body. End of story."
Research backs her up.
A study by British researchers, published in the Journal of Experimental Biology, involved 80 women, 20 to 50 years old. All of them had been wearing heels at least 2 inches high almost every day for two years or more.
By comparing ultrasounds and MRIs from the women to imaging tests done on women who didn't regularly wear heels, the researchers found that the calf muscle fibers of the women who wore heels were 13 percent shorter than those of women who wore flatter shoes. They also found that the Achilles tendon was thicker and stiffer in women who wore heels.
"This is a great study that looks at the mechanism of how high heels may cause grief and aggravation to the woman wearing them," Marian Hannan, a senior scientist at the Institute for Aging Research at Hebrew SeniorLife in Boston, told HealthDay. Hannan was not involved in the research.
"This may have an impact on how future shoes are designed and help the industry understand how women can be slaves to fashion but not suffer so much physical discomfort," she said.
In addition to shorter muscle fibers in the calves and damaged Achilles tendons, narrow high heels can also cause a condition called Morton's neuroma, a painful thickening of tissue between the third and fourth toes, Youner said.
Another possible problem is "pump bump," which happens when the back straps of high heels dig into the area around the Achilles tendon. And, of course, too-tight shoes can cause unattractive bunions, an enlargement of bone or tissue at the base of the big toe that pushes the big toe toward the second toe.
So, what defines a high heel? According to the American Podiatric Medical Association, any shoe with a heel of more than two inches qualifies.
The association recommends that women limit their time in high heels. They suggest that women take off their heels for part of the day and wear sneakers or flat shoes.
Youner agreed, but added that the other extreme -- flip-flops -- is also not a good shoe choice.
And, what should you do if you haven't heeded the foot doctors' advice and your feet are aching from wearing high heels?
"I tell a lot of women to put on sneakers and take Aleve," Youner said.
On the Web
To learn more about female foot problems, visit the American College of Foot and Ankle Surgeons.
SOURCES: HealthDay News; http://www.foothealthfacts.org/Content.aspx?id=1141
Author: Serena Gordon
Publication Date: July 31, 2011
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