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High heels are very popular, especially with celebrities such as
Gwyneth Paltrow, but there is a steep price to pay over time

Like the tall Lara Dutta or the shorter Rani Mukerji, you might want to flaunt stilettos to look glamorous and sleek. But experts feel this style statement can cause serious harm to the body if proper care is not taken.
“Increased pressure puts the forefoot at risk of injuries such as stress fractures, bunions and hammer toes. Knee pain is also common when high heels are involved,” says Ashish Jain, M.S. (orthopaedics), consultant joint replacement specialist at Max Hospital.
“The heel height causes increased strain on the knee joint and associated tendons. The quadriceps muscle group in the front of the thigh works harder, increasing pressure on the kneecap by up to 26 percent.”
“This can ultimately increase the incidence of osteoarthritis of the knee and quadriceps tendonitis,” Jain added.
Jain also spoke of other hazards.
He revealed that when the heel is constantly elevated, the calf muscle and Achilles tendon can contract and shorten. Wearing high heels habitually can result in a woman not being able to tolerate a flat shoe. On occasions, this can even require surgery to lengthen the Achilles tendon.
Sometimes the tight fit of many heels will force the toes to conform to its shape. The pressure of the shoe itself can cause corns to form. Furthermore, the compression of the metatarsal bones can cause pressure on the nerves that run between them.
“The toenails are also at risk as the incidence of in-growing toenails and nail infections is higher in heel wearers. In-growing toenails can be very painful, unsightly and require surgery to correct,” Jain added.
Women feel high heels like gladiator sandals, tip toes and others add a touch of elegance and glamour to one’s overall style and the legs appear longer and slimmer. Thus, to look special in that chic footwear and not experience painful after effects, many are going in for dermal fillers.
“It has been observed that women are undergoing filler injections to plump up the underside of their feet, thus filling them out and providing padding inside the foot to relieve the pain that comes from wearing high heels,” said Satish Bhatia, dermatologist and skin surgeon, Lady Ratan Tata Medical and Research Centre.
“This trend is rising despite the fact that the effect does not usually last for more than six-seven months,” Bhatia added.
Given that certain industries like hospitality, aviation and fashion place a premium on height and appearance, wearing heels becomes a norm, thus making women opt for the expensive solution to ease pain arising out of use of high heels.
“The dermal filler injection is injected in the ball of the foot to ease the pain caused by wearing high heels. The injection costs between Rs.12,000 and Rs.15,000,” he added.
Rajesh Malhotra, professor of orthopaedics, AIIMS, threw light on a few other ways of curing the pain arising out of extended use of stilettos.
“The best way to avoid pain is that one stops wearing high heels at all because they are the cause of the problem. But if that is not possible then there are a few treatments,” he said.
“The entire body pressure is on the ball of the foot; so among many treatments one is that we put the metatarsal bar on the sole of the footwear so that the entire body weight is not on the ball of the foot, which results in less pain,” Malhotra told.
If it is very essential to wear heels, the maximum height advised by doctors is not more than an inch.
“The height of the heel also changes the amount of weight on the forefoot. A one-inch heel will increase the pressure by 22 percent, a two-inch heel by 57 percent and a three-inch heel by 76 percent. So anything not more than an inch is fine,” said Jain.

More women are wearing higher heels, and for longer, and experts are increasingly concerned about the long-term damage they are doing to their feet. Recent research suggests that up to a third of women suffer permanent problems as a result of their prolonged wearing of ‘killer heels’, ranging from hammer toes and bunions to irreversible damage to leg tendons. (Pics)

Many of the problems – which can occur simultaneously – are caused by the increased pressure high heels put on the ball of the foot; the higher the heel, the greater the pressure. The knee and back can also be affected.

High heels in the form of stilettos first became popular in the Thirties, but while heels used to be largely ‘special occasion’ wear, thanks to the success of shows such as Sex And The City they have become de rigueur for every day.

One in ten women wears them at least three days a week, and a recent survey found a third had hurt themselves falling while wearing high heels.

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There are other consequences, as consultant podiatric surgeon Mike O’Neill, spokesman for the Society of Chiropodists and Podiatrists, explains: ‘High heels make you raise your heel and as soon as you do that your center of gravity is pushed forward.

‘What happens then is you bend your lower back to compensate for this and that changes the position of your spine, putting pressure on nerves in the back.’

This can cause sciatica, a painful condition where nerves become trapped, triggering pain and numbness as far down as the feet. Another common problem, says O’Neill, is that the Achilles tendon – which runs up the back of the leg from the heel – becomes permanently damaged.

‘This tendon is designed to be flexible, so the foot can lie flat or point. But many women who wear high heels too often suffer a shortening of the tendon because once the heel is pointed upwards, it tightens up. Stretching it again can be very painful.

‘When you try to put your foot into flat shoes you get a lot of pain in the back of the heel. I’ve seen 70-year-olds still hobbling around in high heels because they can’t put their feet flat any more, it’s just too painful.’

Most women can avoid this by sticking to heels no higher than 1.5in, he adds. But 3in or more can shorten the Achilles tendon – and you don’t have to be wearing them every day, just more than once or twice a week.

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Other common complaints include bunions, bony growths at the base of the big toe caused by tight, ill-fitting shoes, and socalled ‘pump bumps’, where straps and the rigid backs of pump-style shoes cause a bony enlargement on the heel.

Many women also develop hammertoes, where tight-fitting shoes force them to crumple up their toes, shortening the muscles inside and leaving them permanently bent.

The risks to today’s teenagers are thought to be particularly great as they begin wearing high heels at an early age, before their bodies are fully developed. They run the risk of hip trouble in adulthood and problems with back pain from the stress placed on their spines as youngsters.

To minimise the risks of high heels, choose a slightly thicker heel as this will spread the load more evenly. Wear soft insoles to reduce the impact on your knees – and make sure your shoes are a snug fit so the foot doesn’t slide forward, putting even more pressure on the toes.

Finally, ‘wear high heels around the house for a few hours before you go out’, says O’Neill. ‘That gives feet a chance to get used to them before you try something more strenuous like dancing.’

But it’s not all bad news. Italian research suggests women who wear up to a 2in heel may enjoy a better sex life.

That’s because holding the foot at a 15-degree angle – as with a 2in heel – increases electrical activity in the pelvic muscles that play a vital role in sexual performance and satisfaction.

Via Daily Mail