Foot Fashion Can Be Hazardous to Your Health

Dr. Tyson Green, Foot and Ankle Specialist

aching feet and painful shoesFashion divas, take note: suffering for the sake of fashion isn't a healthy decision, particularly when it comes to your feet.

Eighty-eight percent of women wear shoes that don't fit well, according to the foot experts at the American Orthopaedic Foot and Ankle Society. Choosing fashion over function can be taxing on your feet. While that's okay from time to time, making a habit out of it will cause problems.

Before nightmares ensue of wearing so-called sensible shoes, there are plenty of options available that fit the criteria for healthy feet. Shoes don't have to be pancake flat or only athletic sneakers to be smart choices for your feet, there are plenty of designer or fashionable shoes that are made well and provide function as well as style. Choosing soft, flexible shoes will help avoid blisters and bunions. Shoes shouldn't need to be "broken-in" - they should feel right from the first moment you wear them.

With 55 percent of women having bunions, paying attention to the shoe's construction is a good idea. Bunions, although they are congenital and not caused by shoe gear, can be aggravated by different types of shoes that cause you to cram your forefoot into them. The tissues around the toe joint swells, leading to a bump on the side of the big toe; sometimes, the big toe can begin to angle toward the smaller toes. Not a good look. Avoid it by making sure you have some wiggle room in your next pair of shoes. Other foot maladies include pinched nerves, corns and calluses and ingrown toenails – mostly from wearing the wrong shoe repeatedly.

In addition to the wrong shape of shoe, choosing heels that are too high and wearing them too often is another no-no. In fact, high heels are a culprit for knee osteoarthritis, a degenerative joint disease that breaks down the cartilage surrounding the knee. Both narrow and wide heels that were 2.7 inches high were studied. Researchers measured knee torque or how much the knee twisted during walking. Both types of shoes increased knee joint pressure; 26 percent more for wide-heeled shoes and 22 percent for narrow-heeled shoes. This repetitive stress to the lower extremity raises the risk for knee osteoarthritis as well as Achilles tendon tightness and inflammation. By simply choosing a lower heel height for regular wear, women can save themselves a lot of pain later on. Surgeons perform 300,000 artificial knee replacements every year in the United States; many due to knee osteoarthritis.

Follow the 3-hour rule: if you'll be on your feet for more than three hours, opt for lower heels with plenty of room in the toe-box area.

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