Shoes: A love-hate relationship with my high-heeled health hazard

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Living In Balance logoIt is that time of the year: Holiday parties followed by New Year celebrations. For us girls, that means pretty dresses, sparkly jewelry and high-heeled shoes. I know they are pretty, come in many colors, styles, and heel heights, but I also think high heels are the tool of the devil invented by men to keep us from running fast.

Well, maybe that is an exaggeration on the men part, but they certainly are a tool of the devil.

I have a closet full of heels and boots that I love and occasionally choose to torture myself by wearing. They make a dress look great, your legs appear longer, your butt look better, and when you look down, they can be sparkly and ohhh, so pretty.

But boy, do they hurt!

Within an hour, your toes start to ache, followed by the balls of your feet, then your lower back kicks in and starts talking loudly, and finally, if you are as lucky as me, hours after they have come off your feet you get calf and foot cramps so bad that you wake up swearing and begging God to make it stop. Now that is not an exaggeration.

Look a little like cloven hooves? That’s because heels are ultimately a tool of the devil.

Why, you ask, do I wear them? Vanity. Plain and simple. I want to look good and keep up with the other ladies with the pretty little sparkly shoes.

According to an article I read in a massage magazine, twisted ankles, sore feet and musculoskeletal problems are directly related to high heels – seriously – they did a study on this?? The American Podiatric Medical Association found that 50 percent of American women wear high heels (not every day) and 71 percent say their high heels hurt their feet.

Again, seriously, they did a study on this.

The fact that money was spent on this baffles me, but let me get to my point.

Screen Shot 2015-12-21 at 9.57.38 AMWearing heels is not a natural position for the foot. Along with cramping your toes, it puts your foot into a plantar flexed position (toes pointed down) which then shortens your Achilles tendon. Over time, being in this pointed/shortened position can keep those tendons stuck in that position, increasing your risk of injuries.  Then, there is your body alignment. You are taking your skeletal support system out of its natural stacked position and leaning it forward (think of a tall thin book case with a couple inches of shims put under the back edge). You lean forward unnaturally and your muscles need to put you in an upright position (and the fight begins with gravity). You end up with sore lower backs, necks, legs etc. Over time, if you wear heels on a regular basis, it can even affect your bone density.   (Journal of Biomechanics. 2009 Jul 20; Biomechanic 2007: 40(6): 1246-55. Epub 2006 Aug 2.) Katy Bowman, MS, has written a book all about feet, shoes and women in high heels I find it fascinating (but I am a geek). If you are interested, read her stuff.

Oh vanity, thy name is sparkly shoes.
Oh vanity, thy name is sparkly shoes.

This is what I have seen in my office: Ladies who have worn heels often and for a long time have feet that stay in a pointed position, have incredibly taught calves and are uncomfortable when wearing flats. I see an increase in foot and calf pain from flip-flops too (another unnatural shoe – they started as shower shoes, not a fashion statement). I hear complaints about plantar fasciitis pain, sore backs and leg pain. Years ago when I was a teen, I worked retail selling shoes. The worst bunions I ever saw were on older ladies who had been wearing pointy heels for years (= ugly feet).

We all have our reasons for why we do it. All I know is it is not natural or good for our feet or body. I think we ladies need to start a revolution and go barefoot or wear flats all the time. Pretty sparkly heels, be damned!

lisa poole Lisa Poole has been a licensed New Hampshire Massage Therapist since 2011. She is the owner of Peaceful Strength Massage Therapy located in Manchester, NH. She has an Associate of Science degree in Exercise Science with 10 years experience as a personal trainer. She worked for a major insurance carrier for more than eight years and has a great appreciation for the stresses of working behind a computer for 8 hours a day.

Lisa is a lifelong resident of New Hampshire. A parent of two boys (young men), and is married to her high school sweetheart. Exercise and wellness are tremendously important to her. Personal experience has taught her the importance ofScreen Shot 2015-11-08 at 8.42.13 AM balance between family, job and fitness. Lisa’s goals are to share her knowledge, help make people feel better and lead healthier lives.


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