Young women who plan to wear high-heeled shoes to prom should take some precautions to avoid future foot, knee, and back trouble, according to Donald J. Novak, P.T., D.P.T., an experienced physical therapist and owner of Amber Hill Physical Therapy.
A study conducted by researchers at Harvard University showed that both heel width and height contribute to torque and stress placed on the knees and back. A lower, wider heel puts less stress on the body than a higher, thinner heel such as a stiletto.
A similar study at Iowa State University found that the time spent in high-heeled shoes as well as step size also contribute to the stress placed on the feet, knees and back. Prolonged wear of high-heeled shoes can cause problems for several days. Years of high-heel wear increase the likelihood of osteoarthritis in the knees as well as joint degeneration, the study concluded.
Young high school women who are sports-minded should also beware of the short-term stress that wearing high-heels could put on their muscles and joints, which puts them at risk for injury on the sports field.
Here are some tips for young women and parents for wearing high heels to prom:
• Look for shoes with straps; they increase the body’s stability.
• Wear insoles, not only for cushioning but to spread out the pressure on the foot.
• Make sure the shoes have leather lining to prevent the foot from slipping in the shoe.
• Stay away from pointed toes if you choose high heels. As a rule, the higher the heels should have a more squared toe.
• Avoid a heel height of more than two inches.
• Shop for a second pair of flat shoes for dancing and walking distances.
• Before donning that lovely outfit, do some calf stretches and lower back stretches
• Take along your flats. Reserve the high heels for “picture” time and entry into the grand event.
• Take smaller steps to avoid injury when wearing heels.
• Repeat the pre-prom stretches.
• Ice the sore area twice a day for 10 minutes and refrain from joint stressing activities for a few days
• If the pain continues for more than a day or two, visit a physical therapist. They can provide you with special exercises to stabilize your legs and back. Don’t “tough it out” as you may injure yourself further.