As a model, you are asked to wear and do anything. Sometimes you're asked to wear shoes that are completely ridiculous and precariously high. Miyoshi Anderson remembers wearing 5 inch Gucci stilettos and walking down a runway constructed of shaky tables for a Saks Fifth Avenue show. Attendees were sitting right at the tables, sipping cocktails, so models had to dodge spills. "I have had my share of pain in shoes on the runway, especially that one," said Anderson, executive director of Pittsburgh Fashion Week.
"Talk about a catwalk. I have also worn shoes that were way too small. When you are on the runway though, it's all about the performance to showcase the designer's collection. I think that adrenaline takes over, and you don't feel the pain. That is the epitome of fashion," said Anderson.
Podiatrists have been warning of the dangers of high heels and ill-fitting shoes for eons, but women are still blocking out our message. As long as high heels remain in our culture, and popular, it will be difficult to break women of the stiletto habit. Dr. Marlene Reid, one of the leading experts in women's foot health in Naperville, Il., says "There is no fighting fashion. I know that. But there are some things you can do to make your fashion days more comfortable."
She recommends changing up heel heights. "Even a half-inch difference can help, because it takes some pressure off the Achilles tendon and the ball of the foot. If you wear heels on a daily basis, your feet will suffer from it one day. I try to be realistic, but I know I can't fight fashion. Women don't want to hear, 'Don't wear heels.'"
Which is true. Tell any woman that wearing high heels, stilettos, or flip-flops will ruin their feet and you'll most likely hear "My feet are fine now." Cally Jamis-Vennare, 50, who is 5 foot 10 inches, says "I love wearing heels, and often, they come back to haunt me. I remember being in New York for business and walking all day in high-heeled boots. Afterward, I was in immense pain. I have had foot pain and back pain, but I did it in the name of fashion and would do it again, because I love the way heels look with a dress or skirt and even pants."
Women care an awful lot how much they look and want to look their best, often going beyond their health limits to achieve perfection. Sherri Lynn Dunik, 36, knows the risk of wearing high heels, but as a everyday wearer, she often tapes her toes to fit the shoes. "I did it just the other day. Especially, when I wear heels without stockings, the shoes just fit better then when you tape the toes. Afterward, my feet are swollen and sore, but I like the way I look in heels, so I live with the pain." Dunik is 5 foot 3 inches and likes having the extra 3 or 4 inches.
Felicia Jones, 23, wears heels for a different reason. "I wear heels to attract men. They sometimes get you free drinks at the bar and they make your legs look a lot nicer. I know a lot of women who wear heels even though they hurt."
Some women who used to wear sky-high heels all the time are not able to anymore. Kristin DiGiacomo, 30, wore heels often, but her feet changed when she had her son, A.J., growing a whole size. The pain goes from her toes to the balls of her feet to heels to ankles. "Trying to wear heels, sometimes even just a little kitten heel, for an extended period of time is awful. I used to be able to wear 3 to 5 inch heels, but now I feel I can't wear a heel over 1 to 2 inches. And being 5 foot 2 inches doesn't help matters because most of the time heels are necessary to add height and length... I miss being able to wear heels without pain, but so goes life and growing up."
Women do not wear heels solely to add height or to be fashionable, says Ellen Goldstein, professor of accessories design at Fashion Institute of Technology in New York. "They wear high heels to make them look sexy and for their boyfriends, husbands, and significant others. They also wear them because they make them look taller. They say the agony is totally worth it, and under certain circumstances you just put up with the pain," said Goldstein.
Dr. Greg Simunick, owner of HealthQuest Chiropractic in Pittsburgh, sees plenty of women who have put their bodies through the wringer. "Heels have been around for years, but they can cause back pain. They can also affect the calf muscles and Achilles tendonitis. The less you wear heels the better. Women are not going to stop wearing heels. My wife would never do it," said Simunick.
Dr. Marlene Reid and our doctors have the following tips for getting the best of both worlds:
- Buy your shoes at the end of the day when you feet are largest. Go for a walk in the store with the shoes on. If the shoes don't fit in the store, they are not going to fit when you bring them home.
- Purchase shoes with a round or square toe box, or with a faux pointed toe.
- Try kitten heels. They give added height without causing the problems stilettos do.
- Your shoes should bend at the ball of the foot, but should not twist like a ballet flat. The heel of the shoe should also be firm for support.
- Think about your day: if you are going to do a lot of walking, leave the 4 inch heels at home. However, if you are going to be sitting at a desk all day, then wear them.
- Depending on your foot type, you may not be able to wear all kinds of shoes.
If you have a foot problem, call one of our six locations to make an appointment.