The age-old debate of heels vs. flats has been around long before all 6 seasons and 2 movies of Sex and the City. The truth is, although wearing high heels makes some women feel sexier and more confident, there may be drawbacks for those who wear them regularly. A new study shows that women who wear high heels on a regular basis can feel pain when walking flat-footed. Researchers found that high heel-wearers’ muscle fibers are on average 13% shorter than flat shoe-wearers, which explains why the high heel fans experience discomfort when walking barefoot or in flat shoes.
According to Manhattan-based podiatrist Dr. Oliver Zong, “If you hold a limb in a shortened position over and extended period, the muscles shorten.” After several years decked in heels ranging anywhere from 2 inches to 5 inches and beyond, high heel wearers will undoubtedly experience a change in their calf muscles, which are forced to compensate for being in a constant shortened position. To alleviate the pain that comes with high-heel beauty, Dr. Zong offers some tips that don’t require women to give up their favorite Jimmy Choos!
1. Invest in good heels. That’s right, the experts say to splurge on shoes! “If your shoes are no longer supportive, you are also more likely to experience arch and heel pain as a result,” says Dr. Zong. These soft tissue aches can be avoided by making sure your heels are still supportive and not worn down. The money you spend on good shoes will be much less than the money you would spend on visits to the doctor.
2. Trade quantity for quality. You don’t necessarily need to squander your entire life savings on a collection of high heels. Expensive shoes are not necessarily better and cheaper shoes are not necessarily bad. Dr. Zong says when buying high heels, look for a rubber sole for better shock absorption and reasonable heel height (1-2 inches works best). In terms of shoe material, “Try to find a shoe that is leather, they will last longer and conform better to the shape of your foot,” says Dr. Zong.
3. Don’t wait to buy new shoes. Your feet take you everywhere. Dr. Zong warns, “If your feet hurt, it will only make commuting more difficult.” If you are interviewing for a job for example, you will be distracted by how much your feet hurt if your shoes don't fit well.
4. Always stretch your lengthened legs. This tip is especially relevant for fashion addicts. Whenever you wear heels, “Try stretching exercises to avoid soreness at the end of the day,” recommends Dr. Zong. You can do all sorts of leg stretches while sitting at your desk, waiting in line for coffee, or even while standing in an elevator.
5. Treat yourself to a foot rub! After walking in heels all day, foot massages and pedicures can do wonders for tired, achy feet. If your budget doesn't allow for that, you can always give yourself a pedicure or ask a friend to do it for you – Just offer to let her borrow your sexy high-heels!
“I’m in the business of saving soles” says Dr. Zong. “My job is to keep my patients walking so they can enjoy their lives. No one should be in pain, especially if there’s something you can do about it.”