Monday, December 15, 2008

Sky Scraper Stilettos: Sexy or Simply Insane??
Ultra High Shoe Heights can Cause Serious Problems

From Prada to Yves Saint Laurent to Steve Madden and L.A.M.B., soaring heel heights are hitting the stores! With this season's new, sky-high heeled shoes, women need to use extra care in selecting and wearing these sexy shoes. The five, six, and even seven and eight inch heights currently in vogue can lead to a multitude of serious foot and ankle problems, according to specialists in the field. With these ultra high shoes, your body weight shifts, gait pattern is affected and your feet tend to slip forward. This may amplify discomfort, especially if the shoes don't fit properly in the first place. Women should look for shoes with padding in the forefoot area, cushioning the toes and ball of the foot and stability of the heel.

Stilettos are obviously most dangerous and women run the risk of literally, falling off their heels and suffering serious injuries! Some of the designers are addressing this problem by making the heel wider or adding a platform. Even the chunky heels and platforms at these heights are dangerous. Platforms add the additional problem of not allowing the foot to bend as it needs to for normal gait. Women should walk in the high heel shoes before they make a purchase. And walk on bare floors, not just the carpeted floor in the shoe display area of the store.

High heel-related injuries I commonly see include sesamoiditis (inflammation and swelling), neuromas (nerve damage), metatarsalgia (pain in the ball of the foot). Ultra high heel related injuries include ankle sprains or fractures, deterioration of the natural padding, ligament damage to the ball of the foot and even bone fractures of the foot.

Many women ignore think foot problems won’t occur until they are much older. Such common maladies as bunions or hammertoes are accelerated by ill-fitting or excessively high heels. I always tell women in their 20’s and 30’s that foot problems may be just around corner! Shoe related problems are often permanent and start as early as your 30’s.

Fashion editors point to high heels as enhancing the appearance of your legs as your calf muscles contract and adjust to the angle of high heel shoes. I suggest women do some basic leg stretching exercises after wearing heels to avoid excessive tightening of these calf muscles and the Achilles tendon. Wearing high heels on a regular basis over the years can cause these muscles and tendons to permanently contract, making walking in flat shoes or even bare feet more difficult.

Here are some high heel shopping tips:

1) Purchase shoes with heels only as high as you are comfortable with. Some women can tolerate higher heels better than others.

2) Alternate the heel height so that you are wearing a slightly different height day to day.

3) Try several styles, a wider heel may feel more stable then a thinner heel.

4) Also take into account the length of time you'll be wearing the shoes at a given stretch – five inch heels are fine if all you are doing is sitting and looking sexy!


  1. Great information! And a word of caution from a woman who actually wound up in a cast for four months after breaking her foot while wearing high heels. I was walking very quickly (in four-inch wedges) on New Year's Eve down a crowded street. When I stepped off the curb, my foot twisted and thinking I had only a sprain, I walked another block and up a flight of stairs. It wasn't long before my foot had swollen up to three times its normal size.

    According to my surgeon, the twisting action and the extra height in my heels caused the tendon in my foot to snap. My tendon then acted like a whip on my fifth metatarsal and literally splintered the bone into four pieces. After several sessions of physical therapy and a year of downtime, the swelling and sensitivity went down.

    Needless to say the height on my heels has been notched down significantly and I couldn't be happier. Now, it's hard for me to not cringe when I see women lurching around in high heels. Yes, I get the sexy factor ... But take it from me -- crutches do not a sexy woman make.

  2. Its funny how often I hear of injuries that occur with heels! But I hear of almost the same amount of injuries from flip flops that are also dangerous!!

  3. You mentioned that often times high heel related problems start early. Do you see many women in early 30s who have issues like that? Is the damage often permanent? I need to see a podiatrist and my biggest fear is that I won't be able to ever wear high heels anymore (I am 30).

  4. Hi! Yes, most of my patients are in their 30's and 40's. The damage is permanent but there are different ways of accomodating for the problems. I am pretty realistic when it comes to women wearing heals and wish I were one of them who could! Higher arched feet are better in heals than flat feet, but its the high arch feet that often end up with the problems.