What high heels really do to your feet

CASSY SMALL
Last updated 05:00 07/12/2013
High heels
QUEEN OF STILETTOS: Carrie Bradshaw walking the streets of New York in her signature Manolo Blahnik high heels.

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If slipping on a pair of sky high stilettos is a regular occurrence you might like to rethink your footwear.

While they might make you look great, it's probably no surprise to know that they're not doing your feet any favours.

Orthopaedic technology company CurveBeam have developed a 3D scanner which for the first time allows medical professionals insight into the way the foot behaves and functions in a weight-bearing position, which is of particular relevance to regular wearers of high heels.

"Anything higher than an inch puts a significant amount of pressure on your feet," confirms podiatrist Brenden Brown. "The action of wearing a high-heeled shoe raises the heel up and forces the bones of the feet, the metatarsals, to point down. This deviated position puts an enormous amount of pressure on these small bones and the joints that connect the toes," he explains.

The effect of this foot positioning has both a short and long term effect. "Increased friction on the skin causes blisters, calluses and corns. Over a prolonged period of time you start to see the effects of arthritis and irritation of bone surfaces."

These issues are no deterrent to those addicted to the giddying heights of their heels. Confirmed high-heel aficionado Mel Murray says that despite suffering from sore feet at the end of a long day, she loves donning her heels, admitting she most often chooses style over comfort. Her poor choice in footwear has previously seen her take a nasty fall down a steep hill and her feet now cramp when wearing flat shoes.

"I must admit my heel height is starting to get slightly lower as I approach 40 and I did wear flats towards the end of my pregnancy," she concedes.

Manolo Blahnik, Jimmy Choo and Louboutin are the most coveted labels, but Hammer Toe and Bunions are something no one wants to be labelled with.

Perhaps the most famous stiletto addict, Carrie Bradshaw, aka Sarah Jessica Parker, has even admitted to having permanent issues with her feet after more than 10 years working long days on set in stilettos.

It seems she's not alone. A recent study reported in the Daily Mail by the College of Podiatry in England found that 90 per cent of women have suffered due to badly fitting shoes.

It's not just damaging their feet either, high heels in particular can wreak havoc on much of your lower body.

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"When wearing heels your centre of gravity is lifted higher with your pelvis tilted forward, this places greater stress on the glutes, lower back and abs. These muscles are forced to overwork excessively in order just to maintain a form of stability," says Brown.

The ramifications for lifelong abusers of stiletto footwear are extreme. Surgery on the feet can be painful with a lengthy recovery.

Shortening of the achilles is common for chronic wearers and many, including the Louboutin loving Dita Von Teese, admit to feeling uncomfortable and unco-ordinated when wearing flat shoes because of this reason.

In extreme cases, corrective surgery is needed to rectify an overly tight Achilles tendon. Ouch.

While most podiatrists would love to see women lace up a pair of orthopaedically sensible shoes, Brown knows it's an unrealistic request. Wedges provide a happy medium.

"You're getting the height without the difficult angle that's the cause of the problems."

Brown's message to women who refuse to give up their heels completely is one of moderation, and he adds that when possible a shorter heel with a broader foot section should be selected.

"You want to wear your heels for as short a time possible, try to aim for no more than four to six hours a week. Pack a pair of ballet flats to wear when in transit and slip on your heels only when needed," he suggests.

- Daily Life

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