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It’s time to kick off the boots and put on a pair of shoes
to go with the new season. What will it
be, espadrilles, pointy toed high stilettos, a pair of delicate ballet flats,
or flip flops? Well, if you intend to
use those shoes for walking, the correct answer would be “none of the above.” The ache you got in your feet when you had to
walk in high heels last time may clue you in to that being a poor choice. But
even shoes that appear to be more
comfortable can cause damage due to lack of support.
The American Orthopaedic Foot and Ankle Society (AOFAS)
warns that wearing pointy high heeled shoes, which constrict the toes “into an
unnatural triangular shape” can result not only in foot pain but to “injury to the toes, ankles,
knees, calves and back.” High heels disrupt the natural balance of feet by pushing
the pressure of a woman’s body weight to the toes and balls of her feet. The higher the heel, the greater the pressure. As
that part of the foot is forced into the narrow front of the shoe, and that can
lead to “to discomfort, painful bunions, hammertoes, and other deformities.” Open-toed shoes are not as bad as narrow toed ones.
The damage incurred by high heels is not always
immediate. A 2009 study published in Arthritis Care & Research found “an increased risk of
hind-foot pain among women who” had been in the habit of wearing high-heeled
shoes that do not provide adequate foot support. This was noted among older women who wore such shoes years earlier. Another risk, that of osteoarthritis, was noted in a 2010 study .
While lower heels are associated with lower risk, podiatrists do not recommend ballet flats or flip flops as walking shoes because they offer no support for the feet. Consequently, if your plans include staying
on your feet for more than an hour or two, you want a shoe style that fits well
and offers adequate support.
The American Academy of Podiatric Sports Medicine (AAPSM) recommends that you check proper
support for the ankle, as well as correct sizing for the front and back of your
foot. You want the heel to be snug so that
your feet don't slide while walking. The toe box, on the other hand, should have
a bit of room to spare. “You should be able to wiggle your toes in the shoe, and there
should be one half to a full thumb's width between the end of the longest toe
on your longer foot and the end of the shoe's toe box. “
force your feet into shoes that cannot support you properly, the discomfort you
feel is temporary, but the damage may be permanent. Make sure the shoes you wear don't sacrifice function for fashion. Treat your feet right to keep the spring in your step this season and down the road.
All photos by the author