High or low heels?
Now that we have had the first relaxation in the rules that will, in time, lead to us returning to socialising as we knew it, we now have the prospect of returning to wearing high heels.
At Maidenhead Podiatry, our Podiatrists are regularly asked about the long term effect of wearing high heels and it is assumed we will disapprove, but that isn’t necessarily the case. So, here is the low down on high heels.
On the streets of towns and cities all over the country, during lockdown, people have made walking part of their daily routines. Choice of shoes for the task are practical and comfortable, with modest heel, laces and good foot support.
Why would you go back to heels?
There are many reasons for wearing high heels and although they are often worn for work, many reserve them for socialising. Of course, wearing heels can make you feel good, and they can have several effects on not just the foot,
The negative effects of wearing high heels are mostly temporary if they aren’t worn for too long.
Although a modest heel helps the feet work more efficiently, high heels cause you to walk with your weight on the balls of your feet.
How do heels change things?
It is estimated that for each inch of heel, the load on the ball of the foot increases 25%. Therefore, a three-inch-high increases the load by 75% over wearing flats.
Existing (foot) problems that can worsened by high heels include
- hammertoes, callous and corns, which are thickened, tough spots on the skin.
- muscle and joint pain.The body has to adjust for an unnatural gait leading to compensation pain.
- tightness in your calves and put yourself at risk of knee problems, low-back pain, and even neck and shoulder pain.
However as Podiatrists we are not completely against high heels. For everyday use, shoes with heels that are an inch to an inch and a half are fine. If you wear shoes with a heel of two inches or more, limit wearing them to a few hours, such as at an evening event or a wedding.
When you get home at the end of your day massage your feet and give your calves a nice long stretch too. Also, regardless of whether they have heels or not, always rotate your shoes so you’re not wearing the same pair day after day, This will make sure your feet and calves aren’t moving in the same position for long periods of time.
But I still want to wear them
If you are determined to wear heels then there is a way of telling which heel height could be ideally suited to you – it all comes down to the shape of your feet.
Surprisingly, some women are more suited to wearing skyscraper-high, while others will suffer after mere moments with the lowest of heels.
There is a tongue in cheek way to work out which category you fit into, with a three-step formula to quickly calculate your ideal heel height. Measurement is based on the flexibility of a curved bone that connects the foot and the leg – the talus.
If the talus tilts downwards when you are holding your leg out straight and relaxing your foot, then you have a lot of mobility and can wear high heels with ease, if it doesn’t, then you just aren’t cut out for wearing them and there’s nothing you can do about it.
So how do you measure your ideal heel height?
- without shoes and sitting, hold your leg straight out in front of you keeping your foot relaxed. If your foot sits at a right angle to your leg without dangling then you have less mobility and will be more comfortable in a pair of flats. However, if the top of your foot follows the line of your leg and your toes pint, then you are a natural heel wearer.
- to find your ideal heel height, get someone to place a tape measure from your heel in a straight line on the floor, then place a pencil at the ball of your foot at right angles to the tape.
- Wherever the tape measure hits the pencil reveals your ideal heel height.
This simple formula can make footwear purchases more comfortable, although you still shouldn’t wear them all the time.