Slipping into your FOFavorite pair of high heels may make you feel sexier, but at what cost? Dr. Jacqueline Sutera, DPM, answered our questions about the long and short term effects of wearing high heels. The good news? You can still wear heels after fifty. (But, read this first!)
Enter to win a pair of Gentle Souls (one of Dr. Sutera’s recommended high heel brands) by answering this question in the comments below: which pair of Gentle Souls would you most like to win?
Is it true that your feet get worse as you age?
I would agree with that. First, there is general wear and tear on your feet. Furthermore, as you age, especially if you’re a woman who wears high heels, the fat pads on the bottom of your feet start to wear away and get thinner. It’s a cruel joke, because it’s one of the only places in the body where you get thinner as you get older.
What are the short term and long term effects of wearing high heels on a regular basis?
Hammer toes, bunions, pinched nerves, stress fractures, and ingrown toenails can all be caused and made worse by wearing high heels, because high heels shift body weight forward to the ball of the foot. The shortening of tendons is also a big problem. It mostly affects the Achilles’ tendon in the back of the heel.
Bone spurs can be caused by the rubbing and friction of high heels as you walk. Spurs are extra calcifications that can be very painful because they cause inflammation and irritation to the surrounding soft tissue structures like muscle, tendons and ligaments.
Tendons can shorten, tear, thicken, or become inflamed. They are very vulnerable to injury and inflammation. When wearing high heels, they are forced to function in a way they were not intended to because of the body weight distribution, pressures and height.
Aside from problems with your feet, can wearing high heels do damage to other parts of your body?
Your knees, your hips, your back are all affected by wearing high heels. When your weight gets shifted to the ball of your foot, your knees and hips shift forward, and your back has to hyperextend backwards in order to compensate.
Is there any safe way to wear high heels?
There are some high heels that are safer. The American Podiatric Medical Association recommends a heel that is two inches or less. If the shoe has a platform in the front of the sole of the shoe, then you can go a little bit higher. I recommend wedge heels. They’re in style and give you a bigger area to transfer your weight. They’re also sturdier. Gentle Souls offers many styles that are super comfortable with layers of memory foam and flax seed pillows.
Can you offer any tips for wearing high heels?
Alternate your shoes. If you wear three-inch heels today, tomorrow you should wear flats. Then, the next day wear wedges. It’s better to switch it up so the tendons don’t get too used to one specific heel height, and it gives your foot a little break. I’m very big on ‘commuter shoes.’ Wear flats with an arch support to and from work, and then, once you get to work, switch out of it. Also, limit high heel use for when you really need it, like at a party or an event, not for every day.
Can you recommend any products or inserts to help make wearing high heels more comfortable and less damaging?
Theres a really cool company called Insolia that makes pad inserts which actually redistribute your body weight back towards the heel when you wear them. Then there are just good old-fashioned Dr. Scholls–they have a whole gel line for high heels. Anything to help cushion and protect from blisters helps.
What are your thoughts on the recent trend of women implanting facial fillers like rejuvederm in their feet to make wearing high heels more comfortable?
I’m not against it, I’m just waiting until we get more data. It’s in off label use right now. There are no studies on the long term effects of it, so I am not doing this right now. I know doctors who are, and they’re having success.
Is there anything you can do to reverse high-heel damage that has already been done?
Electric stimulation and ultrasound are physical therapies that really help tendons and ligaments when they are injured or inflamed. They work to reduce swelling, pain that is caused by the inflammation and injury. Strengthening tendons is also very important after high-heel induced injuries. There are exercises your podiatrist can prescribe that are easy to do at home and are really helpful. A lot of people end up getting foot surgery, which is an option if you have bunions, hammer toes, or bone spurs, because those don’t go away.
What kind of at home treatment can you recommend for your feet after a day of wearing high heels?
Stretching, icing, and heat. When you get home from wearing a high heel for the day, massage your foot with a golf ball to get the circulation back. Icing your feet is important in order to bring down the inflammation. Reversing some of the bad effects of high heels is really important so that it doesn’t end up causing other problems. You can start with a small problem on your foot and have it end up causing back pain because you’re walking funny.
Enter to win a pair of Dr. Sutera’s recommended heels or wedges by answering this question in the comments below: which pair of Gentle Souls would you most like to win?