Skip to comments.High-heel Hell: High heels can be murder on feet, but some women can't kick the habit
Posted on 09/06/2005 6:41:12 AM PDT by pissant
Dawn Joslin's feet hurt so much last week that she wore sneakers to work for the first time. But there she was at lunchtime, despite corns, bunions and three major foot surgeries, sitting at Lord & Taylor's trying on high-heeled slingbacks.
Would they hurt her feet? Yes. Would she wear them anyway? Of course.
"I just like the look of them," says the 50-year-old comptroller. "I used to wear the stilettos, but gave those up in my 30s. No doctor has ever told me not to wear heels."
Blame Sarah Jessica Parker's Carrie Bradshaw and her Manolo Blahnik obsession (and her ability to run in the four-inch nightmares). Despite an excess of anatomically correct, cushioned-soled support, women won't be separated from their power spikes and pointy toes. Some are demanding cosmetic surgery - cutting off some toes and lengthening others - to make their shoes fit.
"Even though we have this incredible choice - sophisticated flats, and Prada sneakers that can cost as much as a pair of Manolo Blahniks, it's interesting that women continue to wear high heels," said Elizabeth Semmelhack, curator of the Bata Shoe Museum in Toronto.
"High heels bring status and sex appeal, and that's why they're not going to go away."
Under pressure An estimated 72 percent of women wear high heels - 39 percent on a daily basis, according to the American Podiatric Medical Association - and they are paying for their addiction with bad backs, sore knees and aching feet.
"About 90 percent of my patients are women between the ages of 25 and 65 with foot pain from heels," says Joseph N. Daniel, an orthopedic surgeon at Albert Einstein Medical Center in Philadelphia. Most of them wear shoes at least a size too small and so pointy that toes jam and blister and bunion.
Three issues contribute to podiatric pain: support, pressure and space.
Completely flat shoes can fail to cushion heels or give arch support. High-heels shorten the calf muscle, which pulls on the lower back. Pizza shapes squish and rub toes.
At the Sheer Gait and Motion Analysis Lab at MossRehab Center in Elkins Park, Pa., Daniel often sends problem patients for gait analysis and pressure tests. Sensors are placed in their shoes, and then they take a slow 10-step stroll to the end of a runway.
The sensors show movement, pronation (leaning to one side or the other), and pressure placed on the soles.
As a tester walks on her 3-inch rubber-soled platforms, a multicolored image on a computer screen shows the red disaster zone - a circle of potential pain appears right on the ball of the foot. The red areas reflect the centers of highest pressure on the foot at 6 kilograms of pressure per square inch, compared with 2 kilograms at the rest of the foot.
Another walk down the aisle in a sensible shoe and there's not a splash of red in sight. The rocker bottom - low in the front and back, higher in the middle - and thick sole spread the pressure away from any particular area of the foot.
Doctors use the data to detect where problems are happening, to create special insoles for problem feet, or ward off problems that could arise.
But Daniel says he rarely tells patients to stay off the heels altogether. Moderation, he says - once or twice a week - is fine. Every day running around, not so much.
`Toe cleavage' The problem is that women these days are starting to ask doctors to fix their feet - not to correct problems caused by the shoes but to make their feet match their shoes.
"About three years ago, maybe 20 women called me for cosmetic surgery for their feet, and now I get about 150 calls a year," says Daniel. "There's just a greater awareness of their bodies and people are striving to achieve perfection from head to toe."
In some cases, women are actually having their toes, particularly the second toe, shortened so as to enhance their "toe cleavage."
Talena Johnson was in her podiatrist's office to treat an infection from a pedicure when she saw a picture of her feet, and didn't like the view.
"My second toe just looked bad," said the 34-year-old receptionist. "So they just made an incision and filed it down."
It took about a month to heal, and she had to wear a decidedly unsexy boot during the process.
Sean Ravaei, a Philadelphia podiatrist who performs cosmetic foot surgeries, said he's received 20 calls from high schoolers, just wanting to have perfect feet for the prom.
"They want toe-lengthening, toe-shortening, they want their foot wider or narrower - you'd be surprised at what people ask," he said.
Several other podiatrists and surgeons said they would not perform cosmetic surgery on feet because of the risk of complications with the 26 bones, 33 joints, 107 ligaments and 19 muscles that make up the foot.
"I'm completely against cosmetic surgery on feet," said Tracey Vlahovic, a podiatrist at Temple University. "The foot takes all your weight and there's a precise biomechanical action that takes place."
One of the latest fads is to have collagen injections at the ball of the foot to replace fat pads worn away by age or the pressure by heels. But friction due to walking can make the material slide where it shouldn't and break down.
"If you mess up a nose job, it just looks bad. But if something goes wrong with foot surgery, there can be severe pain and injury," Vlahovic said. A former ballroom dancer who now lives in Birkenstocks and Masai Barefoot Technology shoes, she suffers from the hours spent dancing in heels.
Ravaei said he makes sure patients understand the risks - but he also understands where they're coming from.
"I'm very much into my looks myself," he said. "I have problems with my own feet and I have to wear shoes that are a little more cushioned."
By the numbers * About 73 percent of women say they have physical problems because of high heels.
* The number of women who wear high heels daily has decreased from 60 percent in 1986 to 39 percent in 2003.
* 44 percent of women own four to 10 pairs of high heels.
* Younger women are more likely to have blisters and arch pain. Older women have corns, calluses and bunions.
* Most women (62 percent) wear heels two inches or higher.
* Most women (73 percent) have never had their shoe size measured.
Personally, I prefer my pretty feet to stilettos.
I knew I liked you! LOL
Smart girl! LOL. They certainly are appreciated from the male side of the equation!
I suspect that might be a significant part of the problem - wearing shoes that are too small for reasons of vanity. The height of the heel might be less of an issue than the "squash factor" affecting the toes. ;)
Well, I know it's kinky to wear stilettos in bed, but I'd rather have my bare feet caressed!
Maybe they need to bind their feet like the chinese! ;o)
Afterwards, Peacebaby! ;o)
PaulaB, do you wear pumps or sandals?
I'll wear 2 1/2 inch heels on appropriate occasions, but the shoes absolutely have to fit.
It's a little of both. The heel height throws your back, pelvis, and legs out of alignment, and also forces your toes frontward and mashes them into the toe box or off the end (if sandals. I need shoes about 1/2 size bigger for every 1 1/2" of heel, so 3" heel shoes need to be 1 size bigger for me.
Considering that I'm already 5'10", with feet to match, I'm a little scary wearing 3" heels :lol: .
Most of the time I wear flats, but will wear heels if I'm dressing up, like for weddings. But if I start dancing, the shoes come OFF.
I only own one pair of heels, and I have worn them only twice. Both times were to weddings and my feet were killing me afterwards. I wore flats at my own wedding. Not only are heels very uncomfortable, but I also have great difficulty walking in them, due to a slight orthopedic problem I have. Heels look very nice to be sure, but I don't think they're worth the pain and inconvenience. Leave it to a bunch of gay male fashion designers to come up with something so uncomfortable for women.
(Support hose not included)
LOL! I wore one-inch heels (pumps, white leather) and told the minister that if he preached for more than five minutes, I was taking my shoes off in front of God and everybody!
I'm so uncoordinated!
I don't trust myself in high heels.
I can't believe no one has pinged you to this thread yet.
You need to wear them more often to get used to them. Kinda like a new pari of hiking boots, only sexier! ;o)
It's not gay males who want to see you gals in 3" FMPs, let me assure ya! ;o)