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High Heels Damage Feet

by Vivian Chung, staff writer

High heels look great. They are suggestive, feminine and very sexy. But wearing heels is torture and the wrong kind of shoes can cause irreversible damage to the whole skeleton. One glance at the students hanging out on Fort Street Mall shows students tottering to class in two- to three-inch heels, willing to put up with the scrunched toes, back aches and bunions, all in the name of beauty.

The average person takes 5,000 steps per day (2,500 each foot, according to Dr. Guy Fogel, a leading orthopedist). Imagine how much potential damage the wrong kind of shoes could cause a woman wearing them constantly.

Former model Mary Mueller is living proof of the worst-case scenario. In she said, “When I was modeling in my 20s, I wore six-inch high-heeled shoes and didn’t pay attention to how much my feet were killing me. I thought it was normal to have sore feet.”

After a decade of sore feet, Mueller developed a painful deformity called hammertoes, where the middle toe is misshapen, resembling a claw, and suffered severe and chronic pain in the toes and balls of her feet. She not only had to give up wearing those sexy stilettos, but even ordinary flats leave her in agony. She must wear special shoes designed for people with problem feet. “If I wear any other type of shoe, I’m in unbearable pain.”

Most toe problems are attributable to improper shoes. Mueller’s deformity is just one of many painful foot problems improper shoes cause, to say nothing of simple calluses and joint contractures. Many high heels cause greater forefoot pressure forcing the front part of the foot into a tight and confining box, as in today’s stylish shoes. This results in cramping and often causes the overlapping of toes.

According to, a recent study conducted in Boston recorded that high heels also increase the torque (twisting force) at the knee. This force places additional strain on the kneecap as well as the inner knee joint. It is no surprise that twice as many women as men suffer from osteoarthritis, and 87 percent of foot surgery is performed on women.

Are you asking yourself why you’re still wearing high heels? In Las Vegas, a coalition of activist groups has launched a campaign to get casinos to drop policies requiring waitresses to wear them. According to an article on, “Waitresses sometimes go home with blood in their shoes.” One waitress said, “You can hardly walk to the parking lot at the end of the day sometimes.” The American Orthopaedic and Foot and Ankle Society claims that educational background appear to play a role in footwear choices.

Women with four years of college or more were more likely than other respondents to wear flats. That is, only 42 percent reported wearing high heel, compared to 63 percent of people with a grade 12 or below who wear them. Does that mean as college students we should give up our heels? Well, we certainly need to make an informed choice. Woman should be aware that higher heels create greater problem. According to, shoes that are only 1/4 inch narrower than the foot, like a sports shoe, produce few problems.

“As the difference increases to half inch, 3/4 inch, and even one inch, the risk of pain, compression, and eventual deformity increases,” according to Dr. Fogel. “Compared with no heel, forefoot pressure increases by 22 percent for a 3/4 inch heel, 57 percent for a two inch heel, and 76 percent for a 3 1/4 inch heel. Later, this pressure may cause pain in the balls of the feet,” Fogel said. Women today should ask themselves, is all this torture and pain really worth it?.

Tips to selecting high heels:

  1. Shop around. Be picky and see what styles are available. It is best to avoid mail or online orders because you won’t be able to try them on. Remember, no tight shoes.
  2. Fit. All shoes should be slightly bigger (at least 1/8 of an inch), but not too loose. Try on all three sizes closest to your usual size to get the best fit.
  3. Soles. Certain shoes need to have no-slip pads pasted on the bottom of the soles to prevent slipping and injuries. If you slip, you could hit your head against a hard object and end up in a coma or dead. There is an urban legend about a girl in Japan who slipped off her high heels, fell in the street, and died.
  4. Straps. Generally straps keep the foot secure inside the shoe, preventing falling and possible injury.
  5. Mules. Mules, slippers and loose fitting sandals (without straps) can cause extra shock to the heels of the feet. With each step, the heel pounds like a hammer on the heel of the shoe. Later, this will cause painful heel problems. Walk softly and slowly in these shoes.
  6. Ground conditions. Be aware of the type of ground you are going to walk on to determine the degree of shock absorption. Generally, carpeted and wood floors absorb the most shock and help cushion the feet.
  7. Toe type. Study the toe type of the shoe you want to buy. Generally, shoes wih larger non-pointed toes (round or square) can be worn for hours without discomfort.


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