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Are Your High Heeled Shoes Bringing You Down?

If there was ever a time to break out the sky high stilettos, it’s now. Starting with holiday parties right up to New Year’s Eve, it’s go-time for the dressiest of shoes. But orthopedic foot doctors say those tall, spiky heels could lead to your downfall.

The average heel height for a dressy shoe today is about five inches. That’s up from three inches just a decade or so ago. It may seem slight, but height matters. The taller and narrower the heel, the more unstable. In fact, the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons (AAOS) reports complaints relating to high heels also grew to new heights, shooting up 75% between 2005 and 2009. And the problems are widespread.

Teetering in too-tall shoes can lead to ankle sprains and breaks; along with aggravating bunions and hammertoes; as well as tendinitis, plantar fasciitis, and ligament damage.

Clearly there is a lot riding on our shoes. Experts tell me the height and arch of the footwear greatly impacts the pressure point. Heels five inches and higher force the foot into an unnatural position, putting a great deal of pressure on the balls of the feet. When coupled with a tiny or pointy toe box, which is common in many designer styles, our body weight is forced onto the toes. This puts added stress on emerging bunions and hammertoes.

It’s a growing problem and only getting worse as our favorite styles are going higher and higher. Figures from the AAOS show more than 7 out of 10 women have a bunion or other painful foot deformity; 9 out of 10 them can be tied to bad shoes.

So what’s a girl to do? One thing many shoe aficionados won’t do is give your their elevated status. That said, foot specialists say by choosing smarter, you may be able to have it both ways.

Their tips focus on footwear selection. If possible, choose a wedge heel. Even at five inches or greater, they offer greater stability than a razor thin heal. A platform heel can be even better if it evenly distributes weight.

Next, look at what’s called the toe box. Like the name implies, it is the part of the shoe which contains the toes. Squared toes or a wider toe box gives the foot more room to spread out. An oval toe box is a runner-up, the absolute worst option is the pointy toe. It may look good, but it is forcing your feet into a shape that probably doesn’t match your foot.

On to the heels themselves. If you don’t want a wedge or platform, consider downsizing your expectations. Try a kitten heel or if you must go high, then select a chunkier heel. These will carry you far while being less likely to trip you up.

Another reason to reconsider your footwear is the impact it has on the spine. Very high heels throw off your body dynamics and can actually cause spine damage; including disc problems, a curvature of the spine and back spasms.

If you are still opposed to shelving the killer stilettos, at least wear them in moderation. Pick and choose the location and occasion, opting for a few hours that don’t require walking a long distance. That way you can get the most mileage from your shoes, without sacrificing your health.

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