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Wednesday, June 27, 2012

The Effects of Wearing High Heel Shoes on Your Feet...

The Effects of High Heels
On Your Feet...

For the woman who is lucky enough to say, 
"I've been wearing heels for years and I've never had any foot problems" -
I would say, "You're one of the lucky ones - 
so far..."

In my mind, 
it's the same thing as the person who says, 
"My dad's been smoking a pack a day of cigarettes for fifty years and he's never had a problem."

In both cases, 
the only way to figure out if you are one of the 'lucky ones' that won't develop foot pain or 
lung cancer is -
you have to wear heels and smoke like a chimney for years and see what happens...

It's a gamble!

Don't gamble with your body!

Protecting your feet and taking care of your body will significantly improve your quality of life, keep you active longer and decrease the chance of injury.  

Let's talk feet...

Please don't get me wrong -
I'm not against wearing high heels! 
I do, however, have specific recommendations for the type of shoes you should be looking for if you want to wear high heels based on your individual biomechanics.

There are many women who will not be able to tolerate high heels due to the genetic biomechanical structure of their feet. 
Whether or not you can tolerate high heels is directly related to the biomechanical structure of your feet. 
The biomechanical structure of your feet is genetic and runs in families and it can also be 
related to previous injury. 

One example: 
If you have Hallux Limitus, which is decreased motion of your first toe joint and you try to wear an ultra high heel 
(i.e. you are trying to push motion through a joint that doesn't have motion) 
you are at risk for developing bone spurs, osteoarthritis, degenerative joint disease and lateral ankle strain (to name a few).

Determining what type of shoe that works best for you is pathology specific! 

Basically, what type of biomechanical foot structure you have or what type of foot problems you have 
will determine what type of shoe will be ideal for you...

What works for one person, will not necessarily work for another person. 

Let's look at some pictures...


Ah, yes, those were the days!
Pre-Podiatry shoes...
And, yes, they did come out of my closet and, although I haven't worn them in two decades,
 I can't bring myself to throw them away. 
You know what I'm talking about, ladies...

What's wrong with these heels:

1. With a true heel height of 3 and 1/2 inches, they are too high and putting too much pressure across my foot and ankle joints - not to mention my knee, hip and lower back, which can cause joint damage, muscle strain, tendonitis, bunions, hammertoes and a multitude of other problems.

2. There is no midfoot or rearfoot strapping, which is forcing me to put more strain and wear-and-tear on my tendons, joints, and muscles - not to mention my knees, hips and lower back.  With no rearfoot strapping, I am struggling to keep my foot in this shoe!
I am crunching down my toes so that I can stay in the shoe, which causes more inflammation, swelling, strain and damage.
This can cause 'Tired Leg Syndrome' as well as a multitude of other problems.

3. The combination of the aggressive angle of the high heel and lack of midfoot and rearfoot strapping is forcing my joints, tendons and muscle to struggle to stay in my shoe.

Why this heel is better than the previous heel:

1. Because of the wedge style, this shoe has a true heel height of 3 inches. I'm getting the height (for fashion) but not as aggressive 'tilt' on my foot and ankle joints as the previous shoe.

2. There is midfoot and rearfoot control, which helps decrease mechanical strain, the chance of injury and pain. 

3.  This heel will not work for everyone, but it is better than the first shoe we looked at...

This is the Dansko Rowena and it is currently my 'go-to' casual heels to wear with jeans. 

Why this shoe is better than the 
previous two shoes choices:

1.  The wedge in the front of the shoe is thick and rigid for more biomechanical control and increased protection for the foot structures such as joints, tendons and muscles. 
The true heel height is 2 and 1/8 inches.

2.  There is midfoot and rearfoot control for more biomechanical control, which means less strain and more comfort.

 Wearing high heels 
changes your gait and the biomechanics 
of your feet, ankles, knees, hips and 
lower back and...

Inappropriate High Heels can cause:

*Degenerative Joint Disease
*Forefoot Pain
*Plantar Plate Injury
 *Lateral Ankle Strain
*Tailor's Bunions 
*Morton's Neuromas
*Knee, Hip & Lower Back Pain
*Corns & Calluses

For Recommendations for Comfortable Shoes that are Pathology Specific - 
please refer to my blog:
Within the Blog, 
Use the 'Search' box to look up: 
Top 10 Comfortable Sandals
Top 20 Comfortable Women's Dress Shoes
Top 5 Comfortable Walking Shoes

Hope this was helpful!
Dr. Cathleen A. McCarthy


Anonymous said...

What about a shoe like this? Is the true heel height 2.5?


Anonymous said...

What about a shoe like this? Is the true heel height 2.5? What if a shoe like this is worn once a week? (or less)?


Doctor of Podiatry Discusses and Recommends Shoes. said...

The good things about the shoe are the wedge (which is protective) and the forefoot and (some) midfoot strapping. I would recommend finding a shoe like that with straps that go back a little further into the midfoot area and it should have a rearfoot strap.

You can wear it 'occasionally' BUT please be aware that there is always a price to pay. It's sort of like asking a dermatologist if you can be in the sun with no sun- screen for one or two hours a week. Yeah, you can but - you are doing damage.

I don't mean to be so hard-core about it but I really believe that proper shoes are crucial to protecting the foot, ankle, knees, hips and lower back.

Have you looked at some of the Earthies, Born or Dansko wedges?

Let me know how it goes...
Cathy McCarthy

Anonymous said...

Thank you Dr. McCarthy! I appreciate your taking the time to answer my question and your blog is very informative and helpful! High heels are so "tempting" - I will definitely look at the brands you recommend. Thanks again!

Doctor of Podiatry Discusses and Recommends Shoes. said...

My pleasure! Thanks for reading...

mindy said...

Dr. McCarthy,

I am a patient of yours. Thank you so much-you have changed my life! I never thought my feet could ever be as pain free as they are today-thanks to your expertise the inflammation in my feet is under control and I feel almost normal again! You're the best!!!
Mindy D

Chloe said...

Hello Dr. McCarthy,

Could you explain how celebrities (such as Kate Middleton, Michelle Obama, Beyonce, Sarah Jessica Parker, Jennifer Lopez, ballroom dancers, the women on “Pregnant in Heels”(!), for instance...) manage to constantly wear high heels without any problems? High heels are difficult to resist when so many beautiful women appear so glamorous and effortless in them...

Doctor of Podiatry Discusses and Recommends Shoes. said...

Hi Chloe,

Thanks so much for reading the blog!

Believe me, I understand the lure of heels also!

Please understand that my point of view is very specific - I'm coming from the perspective of a Podiatrist. No one comes into my office and says, "Here's my fifty dollar co-pay - I just wanted to tell you how great me feet feel."

I'm seeing patients who are in pain and have reached a point where they seek medical advice. I treat all ages and I also see the effects of poor shoe gear on feet as well as 'biomechanically challenged' patients and what happens to their feet after years of abuse.

I know for a fact that there are women who can wear heels and do just fine for years.

I live in Arizona and I can't imagine that there's a Dermatologist in town who would recommend not wearing sunscreen! The sun damage that we do to our skin as a child is what causes the malignant skin cancer decades later. It's the same with shoes! We can wear whatever shoes we choose to wear on our feet but, unfortunately there is a price to pay. As Bogart said, "Maybe not today, maybe not tomorrow, but someday..."

We are also making an assumption that these women (Kate Middleton, ect.) don't have foot issues. Who knows what lurks beneath those designer shoes??

There was a rumor in Hollywood several years ago that the women who wore the 'skyskraper heels' would give themselves injections of lidocaine to numb their Posterior Tibiale Tendon so they couldn't feel the pain as they walked down the red carpet.

All of my advice and recommendations come from my sincere wish to help people who are suffering with foot pain. I hope this was helpful...

Have a great weekend!
Cathy McCarthy

Doctor of Podiatry Discusses and Recommends Shoes. said...

Thank you so much Mindy D!
You just made my day...

Chloe said...

Hello Dr. McCarthy,

Thank you for your insight!! I was curious and perplexed (by how celebrities manage), but you're right, their problems may be hidden from the cameras. One more question: can wearing high heels too much also cause very veiny feet?

Thanks and have a nice weekend!

kids footwear said...

A girl may find that a tall heel in her size feels smaller than flats or lower heels in that same size. This is not uncommon, and it does not necessarily mean that your feet are growing or swelling. Just try adding add a half size.

Doctor of Podiatry Discusses and Recommends Shoes. said...

Hi Chloe!
Sorry for the delay in response - I was on va-k and am just now catching up with stuff! High heels can play a role in causing more varicose veins but they are not the major culprit. Varicose veins are caused more by heredity, trauma and obesity. Heels don't help but they are not the biggest factor in why or why not a person gets "veiny".
Have a great day and thanks for reading!

Anonymous said...

This is a vein and vascular center that has multiple locations. They are located in near PHOENIX, ARIZONA, USA.