Much has been said and written about how bad women’s shoes are for their feet, posture, gait, and overall health. Below are a couple interesting studies regarding this conventional wisdom.
In a study that looked at 127 women between the ages of 50 and 70, over 80% had a foot problem of some kind, and at least a third had a problem that would limit their mobility. (1) This very same study was unable to find a connection that would specifically support the belief that high heels are bad for feet.
However, another study found differences in muscle response to fatigue between regular and non-regular wearers of high-heeled shoes. There is a lower endurance of the foot muscles in habitual high-heel shoe wearers. As these individuals get older, this lower endurance is found to lower the ability to respond and generate forces needed to control the center of mass (poor body balance), leading to more falls. (2)
Sarah Jessica Parker, a name synonymous with towering designer shoes, has been quoted talking about the toll of habitual high-heel wearing has had on her feet. Following her podiatrist’s advice, these days she is often found wearing much more sensible shoes, except for special occasions. (3)
Below are our tips for selecting comfortable, ideal shoes, without sacrificing style.
Ensure proper fit.
Go shoe shopping at the end of the day, while your feet are the most swollen. This will stop you from buying a pair that is too small. Ensure that while the heel fits tightly, there is plenty of room in the toe area.
Cushioning is important.
Shoes should be cushioned to soften the blow of each footfall. The cushioning acts like shock absorbers to decrease joint ache.
Look for shoes made with a breathable material. Shoes that are too hot will make your feet swell, causing additional problems. (The better the leather, the more breathable it will be.) Shoes should also be lightweight; the heavier they are, the harder they are on your feet, and the more tiring they are to wear.
Quality matters more than price.
This is where the old adage of “you get what you pay for” comes into play. Many cheaper, low-quality heels are poor quality, and tend to have a plastic outer sole. Invest in a more expensive, better quality pair that does not cause your feet problems. Perhaps, consider buying 1 pair of quality shoes over 2-3 pairs of cheaper heels.
Look for shoes that have a good, firm arch support – or where you can replace the footbed with an orthotic or arch support. This way one point of the shoe/foot will not have the increased pressure of carrying all of your weight.
Low, Stable Heels.
A wedge or platform is more comfortable and easier to balance. However, look for heels that are lower than 2 inches – the flatter, the better.
(1) Dawson, J., Thorogood, M., Marks, S., Juszczak, E., Dodd, C., Lavis, G., & Fitzpatrick, R. (2002). The prevalence of foot problems in older women: A cause for concern. Journal of Public Health, 24(2), 77-84.
(2) Gefen, A., Megido-Ravid, M., Itzchak, Y., & Arcan, M. (2002). Analysis of muscular fatigue and foot stability during high-heeled gait. Gait & Posture, 15(1), 56-63.
(3) Curiel, R. (2013). Sarah Jessica Parker: High Heels Ruined My Feet. Retrieved September 20, 2016, from http://www.eonline.com/news/396572/sarah-jessica-parker-high-heels-ruined-my-feet