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High heel hell and footwear deformities...and it's not just for women.

June 19, 2017

 

This is no new news: High heels are hell.

 

And it's not just women that wear heels either.  In fact, heels have been worn by men for various reasons throughout our history.  Ancient Egyptian butchers wore high heels while slaughtering animals to avoid getting blood on their feet.  Later, in the European renaissance, the high heel became a status symbol worn by both male and females from the higher social statuses. King Louis XIV of France decreed that only nobility could wear heels, and that only members of his specific court could wear red ones.  During the 16th century, European royalty, such as Catherine de Medici and Mary I of England, started wearing high-heeled shoes to make them look taller or "larger than life." By 1580, men wore them, and a person with authority or wealth was often referred to as "well-heeled."  

 

Cowboys also wore high heels for stirrups while on horse back. Yeehaw!  

And The Beatles, who brought back the "Cuban Heel" and the "Chelsea Boot" with use of their "Beatle Boots," brought popularity of high heels for men during the 1960's.

 

 And Tony Stark likes to wear high heels, too...

 

You get the picture.

 

But with so many people wearing them for work, social functions and gatherings, and because they make your butt look better, many people experience wide spread body pains, some all the way up to their necks.

 

The American Podiatric Medical Association (APMA) have determined that about 77% of Americans experience foot pain. Ouch!

 

Which brings me to this podcast:

 

 

The Daniel Vitalis podcast is a great source of information, including this great interview with Dr. Ray McClanahan, a podiatrist who talks about foot health, common pain problems, and the use of minimalist footwear. 

 

It is known that we change the shape of our feet by our footwear very early in life.  The human foot is designed to be widest at the ends of the toes.  When looking at feet from different areas of the world, you can see how the feet shape literally changes over time because of footwear.

 Compared to more Western or American trends:

 

A bit of Anatomy:

Your feet have ¼ of all the bones in your body: 52 bones!  The foot contains 26 bones with 33 joints, 107 ligaments, 19 muscles and multiple tendons that hold the structure together and allow it to move in a variety of ways.  

Under the tibia and the fibula, is the talus bone, which guides the lower leg while walking. The calcaneus (heel bone) is below the talus, and in front of that is the navicular and the cuboid bones.  The cuneiforms and the metatarsals (the long bones that run through the foot), and phalanges (toes) are in front of those bones. There are two little floating bones called sesamoids, under the first metatarsals, and these go where the big toe goes. When these little bones are dislocated, or become out of alignment, usually because of poor footwear, they can cause sesamoiditis, or inflammation of the sesamoid bones.

 

 

The Problems:

Bunions for example, usually caused by footwear, occurs when the big toe no longer lines up in a straight line with the first metatarsal bone.

When the footwear pushes the big toe towards the second toe, it takes part of the big toe off of where it should be bending on the first metatarsal, so it gives the appearance of something growing out on the side of the foot.  Bunions are not bone growth, there is no calcium deposit. They are a part of the first metatarsal bone.  Bunions are simply a progressive dislocation of the big toe joint caused by footwear.

 

Heel Elevation: Elevated heels on any footwear, including sneakers, can cause problems.  Even a 2" heel has proven to show a 13% shortening of the calf muscles and a thickening of the achilles tendon.  Zero drop, where there's no difference in the height of the shoes from heel to the ball of the foot, are the ideal footwear.  

 

Toe Spring: from the ball of the foot of the shoe, to the end of the shoe, it is lifted up above the ground surface, so when you wear a shoe and your toes are not on the ground (envision elf shoes!).  This causes the fat pads in the bottom of the foot to become dislodged, moving it from where it should be under the ball of the foot, up under the toes, where it doesn't help the foot anymore.  

Over lengthened arch muscles, or the plantar intrinsic muscles (start at heel and attach at the toes) get too stretched out and then may longer contract effectively.  This can cause a number of different foot pain issues.  Our arches should be strong and stabilizing. 

 

More common locations for foot pain are:
  • Heel Pain: If the pain in the heel area, it is possible you may have plantar fasciitis. Plantar fasciitis is an irritation or inflammation of the band connecting the heel bone to the toes.

  • Ball of Foot: This pain can be caused by an overuse injury called metatarsalgia. Common causes of metatarsalgia are ill fitting shoes, demanding exercises such as running or jumping. Some people know this condition as a stone bruise. Other conditions causing pain in the ball of the foot are morton's neuroma and sesamoiditis.

  • Arch Pain

And it's more than just your feet that can have pain from shoes...

 

High heels cause an imbalance in your posture when your low back moves forward and your hips and spine become unaligned, and your chest is pushed forward.  

 

A set of statistics collected by the University of Alabama at Birmingham shows approximately 7.32 women out of 100,000 suffer high heel-related injuries that require hospital treatment, as cited on ncbi.gov.

 

 

Conclusions of studies have determined that high-heeled shoes in adolescents can lead to the development of postural disorders, among which stands out the forward head posture, lumbar hyperlordosis,

pelvic anteversion, and knee valgus.

 

Achilles tendinitis is inflammation of the tendon due to injury, strain or overuse.  Wearing high heels is a huge culprit for the causing this pain.

 

In today's "fix it with a pill complex,"  some common ways of fixing foot pain problems are to just get rid of the symptoms, usually by having an unnecessary surgery so people's feet can fit into footwear. 

 

But there are alternatives!

 

There are ways to ease some of the potential foot pain problems by changing up your footwear game, doing foot stretches and exercises, and of course, massage therapy.

 

Footwear: Foot Fitness Program as mentioned on Vibram Five Fingers website maps out an awesome way to stretch and exercise the intricate muscles of the foot and how to ease into wearing minimalist footwear.  There are a growing number of minimalist shoe companies emerging with fashionable and ideal footwear.

 

I personally have been wearing vibram five fingers for several years now and just recently started wearing Earth Runners, which are so awesome and comfortable.

 

The muscle belly of the arch muscles can grow and get stronger when they are used as they are supposed to be used, and minimalist shoes are a great way to achieve this.  If parents can help their children to become comfortable with low heel shoes, their skeletons can grow more normally, and hopefully have less foot pain in the future when they are older.

 

 My Vibram five fingers and my Earth Runners are so wonderful.

 

But be advised that it takes time, up to a few weeks, to really get comfortable with minimalist footwear, so take your time, have patience and enjoy the process of helping your feet and body.  Once you go flat, it's hard to go back!

 

If you must wear a high heel, try to opt for one that has a minimal slope of incline. For example, wedges or platform shoes are better for your feet than stilettos.  Look for shoes that have the slope with a smaller angle between the heel and the ball of the foot, so your weight can be more evenly distributed across your foot.  

 

Slope is more important than the height of the heel.  

 

West Austin Massage can help with relaxing the muscles of the feet, ankles, lower leg, buttocks, low back, mid back, all the way up to the neck and head, since after all, it is all connected!

 

Thank you for reading.

 

 

 

 

Resources:

 

1. Achilles Tendonitis: http://www.mendmeshop.com/achilles/achilles-tendonitis.php

2. It's all connected: http://doctorsthatdo.org/american-osteopathic-association

3. Pain Areas: http://www.physiochirowellness.ca/

4. Conclusions: http://www.scielo.br/readcube/epdf.php?doi=10.1590/S0103-05822013000200020&pid=S0103-05822013000200020&pdf_path=rpp/v31n2/en_20.pdf&lang=en

5.  Statistics: Copyright © 2015 American College of Foot and Ankle Surgeons. Published by Elsevier Inc.

6. Beatle Boots: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Beatle_boot

7. Daniel Vitalis: http://www.danielvitalis.com/rewild-yourself-podcast/the-barefoot-podiatrist-dr-ray-mcclanahan-140

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