Plan Ahead for Happy Feet in High Heels

Moms who are fond of high heels for work and social occasions often find themselves with foot, knee and back trouble. With a few precautions, however, many of those problems can be avoided, says Donald J. Novak, P.T., D.P.T., an experienced physical therapist and owner of Amber Hill Physical Therapy.

Women make up the majority of the 43 million people per year who suffer from foot pain, according to the American Physical Therapy Association. That and other studies on the impact on the body of both the width and height of shoe heels show that there are some steps you can take to keep your feet healthy.

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 amount of the time spent in high-heels, as well as the size of a person’s steps, also contribute to the amount of stress placed on your feet, knees and back. According to the study, wearing heels for a long day may cause problems for several days and years of wear increases the likelihood of osteoarthritis in the knees and joint degeneration, the study concluded.

Athletic Moms
Moms who run or participate in other sports 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. Additionally, frequently switching from high heels to running shoes or flats can put your feet at risk for plantar fasciitis. This condition is caused by inflammation of the connective tissue that forms the arch of the foot, and causes heel and arch pain.

Pregnant Moms
Pregnant women should favor low heels or flats because the body’s center of balance changes as they gain weight. In addition, flats are more comfortable for the swelling and water weight that are common in many pregnancies.

Here are some additional “shoe-smart” tips from Dr. Novak:
Shoe Shopping:
• 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, the more square the toe should be.
• Avoid a heel height of more than two inches.

Stepping Out
• Before donning those high heels, do some calf stretches and lower back stretches
• If you have a long day or evening ahead of you, take along a pair of flat shoes for later in the day or evening, or for walking long distances.
• Take smaller steps to avoid injury when wearing heels.
Give Them a Rest!
• Stretch as soon as possible after you kick off those shoes!
• If your legs or feet are sore, ice the sore area twice a day for 10 minutes and refrain from joint stressing activities until the pain dissipates.
• 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.