I have a confession. Can you keep a secret?? … I am a podiatrist, and I love wearing high heels! Shhh! Most of us know that the age-old consensus regarding long term use of high heels is that they are bad for your feet, right? They can cause and/or exacerbate corns & calluses, ingrown toenails, bunions, hammertoes, metatarsalgia, neuromas, plantar fasciitis, achilles tendonitis, ankle sprains, osteoarthritis, and gait abnormalities. But what are the chances that you are going to leave your podiatrist’s office and never don a pair of heels again? Slim to none. So, for those out there, like me, who enjoy wearing heels; here are a few tips on how to do so with minimal complications.
- Moderation: Like your parents told you growing up “everything in moderation” or “moderation is key”. Do not wear high heels more than 3 inches high extended periods of time. Also, make sure that your feet/ankles are stable when wearing them. When wearing high heels to work, I never wear them for more than 4-5 hours at a time. I always take them off during lunch. If I’m running errands during that time, I change into a pair of supportive sneakers.
- Variation: Yes, another reason to buy more shoes!! But seriously; Do not wear the same type heel every day. Alternate between your stiletto, chunky, and wedge heels with varying toe boxes. When shopping, look for more open, peep, and round toe shoes. Also, make sure your higher heel shoes have a platform sole- this decreases the steep angulation of the foot, in turn decreasing ball of foot pain (metatarsalgia), as well as ankle and knee pain.
Sizing: Try before you buy, and please don’t be that lady asking for a size 6.5 when you’re really a 9.5! Even though you may think you’ve always been a certain shoe size, doesn’t mean that you are currently that size. Have your feet measured often and always try your shoes on. Moreover, try on shoes in the afternoon/evening to accommodate any swelling that may occur throughout the day. Other factors that can change the size of your feet include adult growth spurts, pregnancy, and weight gain/loss. Finally, all manufactures do not size their shoes the same or have standardized widths. I’m the customer the salesperson keeps their eye on because I’m walking around a lot (and often to the adjacent dept.) in their shoes because, let’s be honest- trying on shoes while seated or standing in place does not cut it!
Stretching: There are stretching exercises for every part of your body, including your feet. Perform range of motion and stretching exercises at your desk, in your office, or even in the bathroom. They can include wall stretches to prevent over contraction of your Achilles tendon, drawing the alphabet using your big toe like a pencil or index finger, and wiggling/extending your toes. Bottom line – move them!
- Orthotics/Padding: Orthotics or shoe inserts are devices designed to align your foot/ankle, offload certain areas and help relieve pain. They consist in prefabricated (OTC and in-office) and custom orthotic (made specifically for your foot) devices. If you typically wear orthotics in other shoes, have your podiatrist prescribe you custom dress orthotics for heels and dress shoes. If your heels aren’t very well padded, a variety of shoe cushions (gel, felt, foam) can be purchased without a prescription.
- Categorizing: Decide which shoes can be worn for various time frames. Personally, I have my heels organized
in the top of my closets (yes- that’s plural) by increasing time and/or heel height. There’s the 0-2 hr section, 2-4 hr section, 4-6 hr section, etc. Choose your heels based on your comfort level in them and the amount of activity you will be performing that day.
I hope these tips enable you to be smart about wearing high heels, and don’t let this be you!
Bridget Moore, DPM
The Foot Institute, LLC