Whole Living Daily

Freak-Out Fridays: Will High Heels Permanently Damage my Feet?

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Welcome back to Freak-Out Fridays, where health experts weigh in on just how worried you should be about health threats in the modern world. Struggling with your own quandary? Send it to freakoutfridays@marthastewart.com.

Q: I wear high heels every single day. Should I be worried about the long-term ramifications of wearing stilettos?

A: The simple answer is that high heels aren’t great for you. There are many potential long-term problems that can result from consistent, extended wear.  Most notable among these is forefoot pain, bunions, hammertoes, neuromas (über-painful nerve growths), heel pain, and osteoarthritis.

The good news is that you aren't doomed to have these issues if you wear high heels. Whether or not you'll ache depends on multiple factors, including your height, weight, and foot type. Here are a few tips to safely wear high heels for extended periods:

  1. Alternate wearing heels and flats on different days of the week.  If you must wear heels on consecutive days, alter the shoe type and heel height from day to day.
  2. Only wear heels when you absolutely need to.  For instance, if you must wear them at work, commute in flats or sneakers.
  3. Never do strenuous higher-impact activities in heels like dancing or running to catch a bus; that’s how serious injuries happen.
  4. Try to limit the height of the heels you wear to under 2 inches.
  5. The more material on the shoe, the better. A mule is less stable than a traditional closed-toe heel because a mule is backless and has no heel support. Also, a more substantial, squared heel is a better platform for support than a narrow stiletto heel.

High heels are just like any other “vice”—they aren't entirely good for you, so moderating your indulgence makes all the difference.

Dr. Ethan J. Ciment is an attending physician at Beth Israel Medical Center and a podiatric surgeon in Manhattan at Chelsea Foot & Ankle.

—reporting by Nina Lincoff / photo from Martha Stewart Weddings

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