High heels meant for sex appeal, but causes disfigurement

By Ivana Susic

Many women say wearing heels completes an outfit in a way other shoes never could. While it’s hard to imagine wearing a sexy dress out to some club in a pair of well-designed ballet flats, it’s something more women should consider.

I cringe every time I see a woman in a pair of heels that are higher than two inches, especially if they’re stilettos. Appearing a few inches taller will do no favors to someone who has shortened calf muscles and a distorted lower spine.

Before going into the types of injuries that can result from constantly wearing heels, it’s important to sit back and wonder why so many women think they are sexier in extravagantly high and thin heels. Society has taught us that a woman immediately looks better while donning these osteoarthritis-inducing shoes. If everything else about a woman’s look has been aesthetically perfected, it shouldn’t matter if the shoes are flat or four inches high.

Long legs do not make a woman physically attractive: clothes flattering to her body type do, as does confidently knowing that it doesn’t take pelvis-displacing shoes to look beautiful. Some women feel more confident in heels and see no reason to look for an alternative.  This is a personal choice, but it’s important to consider making shoes not the only way to look sexy. Pick another body part you’re fond of or want to accentuate. Or find better fitting clothes; well-tailored pants do a lot more for your figure than strappy heels.

There are 26 major bones and 107 ligaments in your feet. The average person takes between 8,000 and 10,000 steps a day. When you take a step, each one of your feet temporarily supports your full body weight. Imagine focusing all of that weight onto the balls of your feet and toes—this is what every step in heels forces you to do.

Injuries women who regularly wear high heels can look forward to are: ankle sprains and breaks; metatarsalgia, joint pain in the ball of the foot; and hammertoes, which result from narrow shoes constantly bending the smaller toes until they are unable to straighten back out.  There is also Morton’s neuroma, a tightening of tissue around a nerve between the third and fourth toes, which results in numbness or pain in the toes.

These injuries are completely preventable. The lower back pain and foot pain associated with wearing heels for extended periods of time are not normal. This is also true for women who could jog in heels if they were so inclined; the damage is still done. Even if no pain is felt now, it’s possible the calf muscle has already begun to shorten, something that may not be noticed until it becomes painful to wear flat shoes.  This also applies to hip or pelvic damage; the onset is gradual but the onset of pain may not be.

There are also the women who do not know how to walk in heels. We’ve all seen those brave souls who are wobbly at the knees or whose feet are bent sideways. Walking in these crippling shoes does even more damage because of the extra strain put on already fragile areas. For example, the ankles bent inward could lead to stretching or tearing a ligament.

Even if these women don’t care about the potential damage, they still look silly. You don’t look sexy stumbling around in heels, especially if you don’t have inebriation to blame.

Most podiatrists advise wearing heels less than one and a half inches tall, and say stilettos should be avoided at all costs. If going bigger, a thicker heel is safer. If you refuse to give up the stilettos, wear them only as long as you need to. Bring flats to wear before and after the event.

I can’t deny I’ve fallen into the trap. The allure of trying on a pair of black patent leather stilettos is at times more than I can resist. They do look fantastic. However, that doesn’t mean I own a pair. I am perfectly happy in my one and a half inch heels and think—no, know—they look great with my little black dress. My feet don’t hurt at the end of the night and they won’t hurt years down the road from irreversible damage.

Just because it’s possible for some women to walk in heels all day, every day, doesn’t mean they should. Wearing stilettos doesn’t make you look any more professional, or more feminine, than the woman wearing a pair of flats. Learn to feel sexy without damaging your feet, ankles, knees, hips and back.

As Socrates said, “When one’s feet hurt, one hurts all over.”