High Heel and Flip Flop Health Tips

High heel enthusiasts know all too well the pain that comes along with standing in a beautiful pair of shoes with a heel.  We’ve all heard the saying “pain is beauty,” but could that temporary pain lead to permanent damage?

Dr. Tara Futrell, pediatrician and adult medicine physician, specializing in sports and exercise, talks about what your favorite pair or heels is actually doing to your posture and offers some tips that could spare you the pain.

High Heels

Those stilettos may look great, but many high heel fans can tell you how they have low back pain, sore feet, knees and ankles.

So, what is the pain trying to tell you?  When you wear a high heel shoe, your heels are raised up off of the ground which decreases your ankle stability.  The majority of your weight is pushed to the front of your foot, over the ball of your foot and your toes.  This change actually sets your body off balance.  It not only affects your posture, but wearing heels actually shortens the calf muscle and Achilles tendon.  To offset the forward movement in your balance and posture, the pelvis often tilts to compensate.

With that being said, this shortening of the calf and Achilles tendon can have an adverse effect.  The alteration in your pelvic tilt and posture could cause some tightness in the back of the calf or the leg and lower back.

Not Just High Heels

The other extreme, flip flops (like high heels), can have a major effect on posture.  They can even change the way your walk.

There have been studies on how someone’s gate, or the way we walk, changes when we wear flip flops.  Since the shoe isn’t secure on the foot, the gate is shortened. You wind up taking smaller steps. Then, as you continue and swing your leg though, the shoe starts to separate from the foot. To compensate, the toes often will engage and squeeze to keep the shoe on your foot. The instinctual reaction of most people is to then plant your foot down to keep it from slipping.

The shortening of your stride from wearing flip flops, like high heels, can similarly lead to soreness of the legs and feet. Also, be sure to wear your flip flops in a suitable environment.  Don’t wear them on a hike, somewhere you need more support, or somewhere where there is a risk of a foot injury or a sprained ankle.

If you do start to experience foot pain, you may want to think about the flip flops you’re wearing.  If you’re looking for something with some more arch and heel support, there are flip flops on the market that can accomplish this goal.

Prevent Pain

If you are someone who likes to wear high heels frequently, then there are a few things you can do to help prevent the tightness.  Moderation is the key. Try to avoid wearing heels or flip flops on a daily basis to help prevent soreness.  Also vary your heel heights as the higher the heel the greater the changes on your body.  Another way to help with the aches and pains is by doing some simple exercise to stretch out the ankles, calves and hamstrings.

The most important thing to prevent long term problems is to stretch, strengthen, and be mindful of your posture when exercising.

 

Should I Worry About Permanent Damage?

It’s good news for those out there who love their high heels and flip flops.  There’s no evidence in the literature that supports these types of footwear causing long-term damage to the body.

We know that wearing high heels and flip flops can change your posture and gate.  However, there’s no good evidence that supports that wearing these types of footwear can lead to permanent complications of the foot- such as planter fasciitis, Achilles tendonitis, and lower back or any similar ailments.   Simply visit with your doctor if you have aches, pains, or some soreness that is bothering you.

 

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