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If the Shoe Fits - Killer Heels and Flat Pumps

Friday, 3 October 2008

Heels have never been higher, this season the standard fashion height is 5 inch's and some shoes are even up to 7 inches.

Justin Blake - Podiatrist
Podiatrist Justin Blake is here to tell us what damage we are doing to our bodies in flat shoes and high heels.

Justin graduated from the London Foot Hospital and School of Podiatric Medicine in 1992. He worked in London which allowed him to concentrate on his specialist areas of biomechanics, gait analysis and musculoskeletal podiatry. He has attended numerous post graduate courses and recently completed a Post graduate diploma in Podiatric Biomechanics from the University of Sheffield.

He has worked with some innovative practitioners in the fields of sports medicine, physiotherapy, osteopathy and has treated sports people from recreational thru to international and Olympic level. He has treated athletes as part of the UK Performance Plan.
On his return to Ireland in 2002 Justin set up his clinic based in Dundalk.

Justin has a particular interest in running, postural and lower back problems. He successfully treats sportsmen and women from recreational to professional athletes, including: runners, Gaelic players, hurlers, footballers, rugby players, golfers, athletes, cyclists, dancers, skaters and members of the Irish Army.
Justin is a member of the following organisations:

. The Society of Chiropodists and Podiatrists of Ireland
. The Society of Chiropodists and Podiatrists UK
. The British Association of Sports and Exercise Medicine
. The Podiatric Biomechanics Group
. Member of

According to the Daily Mail a recent survey found that one in ten women wear shoes at least three days a week and that a third of women have hurt themselves falling whilst wearing high heels.

What happens to your foot in a high heel shoe?
Your foot increases pressure on forefoot, this then has a knock - on effect up the whole upper limb and affects the following,

. Lower limb into the ankle - Holds ankle in flexed position and affects natural gait. Wearing high heels affects your balance and can increase the chances of falling. This can result in sprained or broken ankles.
. Back and Hips - High heels push the body forward which affects the alignment of the hips and spine.
. Calf muscle - Causes shortening of the achilles tendon and calf muscles. This can lead to pain in the back, knee and hip.
. Knee - Knee not allowed to fully extend, affects natural gait. Walking in high heels puts the body in a more forward position. This increases pressure on the knee which can lead to arthritis.
. Ball of the foot - As a result of your weight being pushed onto the front of your foot pain can result in the ball of the foot after prolonged use of high heels.

The higher the heels the more pressure there is on the foot. This can lead to the problems listed above,

1 inch heel - 22% pressure on front of foot
2 inch heel - 57% pressure on front of foot
3 inch heel - 76% pressure on front of foot

Note: Once you go over his recommended 1 ½ inch heel there is more chance of injury. However some women can wear high heel shoes and never have any problems at all.

Common ailments
. Pump Bump - Bony enlargement caused by the hard backs of pump style shoes.
. Hammer Toes - Bending/contracture of the 2nd/3rd or 4th toes. This is caused by squeezing the foot into ill fitting high heels. This can end up with toes being so misshapen that they won't straighten.
. Bunions - Bony deformity of foot that changes the alignment of the foot bones. This effects the big toe and causes it to bend inwards towards the other toes.
. Morton's Neuroma - Thickening of nerve tissue caused by compression of nerve between metatarsal foot bones. This can lead to toe pain.
. Corns and calluses - Painful rubbing can result from your foot sliding forward in a high heel. This results in thick hardened areas of skin developing.
. Toenails - Your foot being pressed forward against the front of your shoe can lead to ingrown toenails.
A big concern is that teenagers are wearing heels before their bodies are fully developed. This can lead to problems with posture in later years.

Ballet pumps have been in the shops for the last couple of years. What effect does a flat shoe have?
If you're used to wearing a heeled shoe and change to flats it can affect your gait. Also pumps give no support to the foot so the muscles in the foot have to work harder. Also the soles are very thin so there is no cushioning.

So what is the right type of shoe women should be wearing?
A shoe that has a slight heel - about 1/2' - 1 ½", a supportive upper and stiff heel counter for support and a sole with some cushioning. In fashion you make a choice - a good one, a bad one, a right one, a wrong one. Whatever it is, the most important choice you can make is to be comfortable. If you feel comfortable in what you are wearing, then you will feel good - and will look even more fabulous. An alternative to stilettos is to wear high heels with a thicker heel as this spreads the load evenly.

Bono and prince amongst other males are known to wear heeled boots, do heels have the same effect on men?
Yes they do - court shoes were worn by men in the 17th century - before women wore high heels!

Top tips for wearing high heels
. Keep high heels for special occasions.
. Save backless high-heeled shoes for evening glamour. Backless shoes force your toes to claw as you walk, straining the muscles if worn over a long period.
. Do calf stretches to help keep your feet supple.
. Vary your heel heights from day to day
. Vary shoe types.
. For everyday use, keep heel heights to about 1 ½ inches.
. To stop your feet sliding forward try to wear shoes with a strap over the instep.
. If you feel that you are in any discomfort don't ignore it. Visit a registered podiatrist for advice.