As well as causing toe deformities, calluses, corns, bone spurs and other problems, wearing the wrong shoes puts tendons, joints and entire muscle groups at risk of injury. The main culprit for all this damage? High heels. They drastically alter the wearer’s posture, displace the foot and ankle bones, strain the knee joints and tighten the surrounding tendons. What’s worse, these conditions can lead to osteoarthritis, a very painful and sometimes debilitating joint condition.
To promote healthy feet and ankles, John Viscovich, DPM, MBA, FACFAS, a board certified podiatrist with Westchester Health, offers the following insights into the problems that the wrong shoes can cause, as well as solutions for minimizing your risk of injury.
The wrong shoes can cause painful problems
Sky-high heels can lead to everything from ankle sprains to chronic pain, including the following 8 conditions:
1. Bone bump
The rigid backs or straps of high heels can irritate the heel, causing a boney enlargement know as Haglund’s deformity or “pump bump.” This can lead to blisters, swelling, bursitis, even pain in the Achilles tendon. Ice, orthotics and heel pads may provide pain relief but the best solution is a change of shoe.
2. Unnatural foot position
As well as causing the so-called “pump bump,” high heels force the feet into an unnatural position that puts undue stress on the ball of the foot. In this joint, the long metatarsal bones meet the small pea-shaped sesamoid bones as well as the toe bones (phalanges). Chronic stress to the foot bones can even lead to hairline fractures. Switching to lower heels will help avoid problems.
3. Ankle sprains
High heels also increase the risk of an ankle sprain. The risk of developing osteoarthritis also increases with a severe sprain or fracture of the ankle. Over time, ligament and nerve damage in the ankle leads to complications in the legs and back. A sprained ankle should be immobilized immediately and may need physical therapy to heal properly.
Although all high heels can cause problems, the ultra-narrow heels of stilettos are particularly hazardous because your weight is pinpointed all on one area, causing you to wobble like you’re walking on stilts. This instability can make you much more likely to trip and sprain your ankle. One solution is to switch from stilettos to chunky heels which have more surface area and distribute your weight more evenly and make your feet much more stable.
5. Ballet flats and flip flops
Wearing ballet flats and flip flops is like walking on cardboard. There’s no arch support whatsoever which can lead to knee, ankle, hip and back problems. In addition, poor arch support is associated with a very painful foot condition called plantar fasciitis. To prevent these problems, try over-the-counter arch inserts, heel pads for extra cushioning, and custom orthotics to reduce pressure on sensitive areas.
6. Pointy-toed shoes
Shoes with pointy toes squeeze the entire front of your foot together. Over time, this can cause nerve pain, bunions, blisters and hammertoes. Altering your choice of footwear may be the smartest solution.
A bunion is a painful bone protrusion at the base of the big toe, which may cause the toe to bend unnaturally. Pointy-toed shoes are the common culprit, which explains the prevalence of bunions among women.
8. Shoes that are the wrong size
Nine out of 10 women are wearing shoes that are too small (the “Cinderella complex”) resulting in calluses, blisters, bunions, corns and other problems. The solution? Buy shoes that are the right size for your feet!
How to find the best shoes for your feet
Treat your feet properly and they’ll serve you well, year after year. Start by following these simple tips:
- Choose shoes that bend at the toe box but that are not too flexible.
- Make sure there is sufficient arch support.
- Pass on the stilettos and instead go with a chunky heel than 2 inches high.
If you are experiencing foot or heel pain from shoes
If you have mild, moderate or severe pain in your feet or heel(s) caused by the shoes you’re wearing, make an appointment to come see me at one of my Westchester Health offices. I’ll examine your heels, ankles and feet, evaluate your condition, and together with you, determine the best course of treatment to alleviate and hopefully, eliminate your pain.