Never has the phrase “beauty is pain” been more true than after a day in a pair of to-die-for shoes that leave you rubbing your arches and reaching for the Epsom salt. And, while achy soles could lead you to sit out a few dances, there are also some serious, life-long risks at stake when we over abuse our feet.
We are not in any position to rain on your shoe parade (nor would we ever want to!). And if we said we’d ditch our pumps and platforms upon learning the not-so-pretty reality about our favorite footwear, well, that be a gross exaggeration. But nonetheless, knowledge, like the right pair of shoes, is power.
Here are six basic styles we all love to wear and filled us in on what exactly our shoes are doing to our bodies – the immediate effects as well as the challenges that may arise after extended use. They gave us a complete explanation about what exactly happens when we slide into our favorite pairs, and more importantly, how we can reclaim and preserve the health of our feet.
The Ballet Flat
– There’s a reason why flats are so popular. They offer basic support, more balance and less strain on the lower leg. For everyday use, they’re a fairly safe bet, but there may be a downside to your “sensible” shoes. As Dr. Novella explains, devoted heel lovers can actually feel uncomfortable when they suddenly slip into flats all day. “People who are used to heels can experience plantar fasciitis or strain of the band, which supports the arch,” he said. And, because of the shape of the shoe, toe movement may be restricted, causing pressure on the sides of the foot and eventually could lead to bunions.
One solution is to choose a wide toe-box flat that will prevent any toe crunching, or simply being more aware of toe restraint. A few cushioned flats to throw on whenever your don’t need to wear something fancy can certainly help, as well.
– The stiletto offers several challenges, from finding your balance to serious foot aches after a week’s worth of wear. “It’s a very thin heel support and it’s a very high lift so it puts the body in a bio mechanically compromising [position],” Wharton explains. And, whether you know it or not, your body is doing serious work just to keep you up in your pumps. “If you’re not used to wearing them and you haven’t adapted to them, you [may] strain muscles in that posterior chain, which is coming from the heel, through the calf, up into the knee, through the hamstring, up into the gluteal, and up into the back.” Commonly, the engaged muscles in the calves and elsewhere may even remain in their contracted, shortened state even after the heels are removed.
The good news? Swapping in a pair of flats for the commute or trying a kitten heel (between one and two inches) are both great options.
The Flip Flop
– You may not be shocked to find that flip flops generally offer no support. But, that may not be a bad thing. As Wharton explains, due to the shoe’s lack of support, the job falls on the natural structure of the body, making the foot and ankle do all the work. Light use over time may actually lead to a stronger foot, “as muscles adapt to more natural work and less support.”
But, trading in your weekday shoes for weekend flip-flops may not always be an easy transition. “If someone used to heels suddenly wears flip-flops all day, they run the risk of muscle or tendon injury,” says Dr. Novella. “The best way to change from one style to another is gradually…either in terms of gradual increase or reduction in heel height or support.” And like most cases in which our bodies feel discomfort, you need to trust your instincts, he says: If you feel pain, don’t assume it’s okay to push through it.
The Thick Strap/ Thick Heel
– In case you didn’t get the memo, we love a chunky heel. We can personally attest to these soles providing more balance and stability – thankfully, the experts agree. These sky-high pairs can still come with ankle and stability issues, but the strap and stacked heel may offset the hazards.
Any initial discomfort you may feel from this thicker style is similar to that of a pump, “but the body would adapt quicker,” Wharton says. But, despite the benefit of the ankle strap, the high heel can compromise your posture. Dr. Novella said the muscles on the sides and front of the hips are engaged, the leg is lengthened, and the hips may sway. What may sound like a sexy supermodel walk can also be dangerous. “The overuse of the muscles in the front of the hip can tighten these flexors and increase low back curvature, which can lead to back problems,” he says.
The Shearling Boot
– Style preferences aside, the shearling boot didn’t rank so poorly among our foot experts. While both agreed that the shoe itself does not offer a lot of support, the tall shaft may have some benefits. Because of the shoe height, “the ankle solidly anchors the footgear to the foot, encouraging confident long strides which employ and strengthen a fuller complement of muscles in the lower extremity,” said Dr. Novella.
Those who choose to walk (not run!) in the chunky boot could experience strain in the back, Achilles, or calf, if your foot is more accustomed to walking in a heel. In the long run, any effects of wearing these very popular boots are probably not going to cause serious damage as they are seasonal, says Dr. Novella. But, should you happen to be a fan, don’t assume the plush lining can double as a sock. According to our expert, this style may be “unhygienic and malodorous” if your foot’s going commando.
– We’ll admit, things get a bit shaky when it comes to the wedge, and we’re not just talking ankle support and heel stability. Dr. Novella advises this kind of shoe may commonly cause sprained ankles, heel bruising, and, as a result, knee discomfort and back problems.
While this sounds a bit alarming, Wharton presents a different angle: the heel offers a little more support than other heel styles, and is more adaptable. “There is a wider sole and a lower angle of lift,” he said, which may help a woman’s body adapt to these pairs quicker than others. And while the long-term effects are similar to that of a stiletto or ankle-strap shoe, the severity is less and can be corrected with the proper excersices. After all, a healthy foot is one that can enjoy a multitude of styles. But, more on that in the final slide…
– Both of our trusted experts agree that our favorite shoes can be enjoyed for a lifetime in moderation. Dr. Novella stresses that our feet need time to recover from the strain we may put on them, which means that switching pairs when you arrive to your destination may mean the difference between blissfully dancing the night away or spoiling a special moment with pains in your soles.
If you condition your body to “prepare to wear,” as he calls it, you may be able to avoid the negative short- and long-term dangers. Try to learn some exercises that you could do to relieve feet sores and swelling.
Seated Heel Raise: Sit upright in a chair, feet flat on the floor. Raise one heel off the floor, keeping the ball of the foot planted, then slowly lower to the ground. You can increase resistence by placing a light weight on your thigh. Repeat 10 times, then switch legs. Complete two sets, weekly. Works the inner calf muscle that attaches to the Achilles tendon.
Standing Heel Raise: Stand with feet together on a flat surface. Lift both heels, as high as possible like a ballerina, then lower to the ground. Repeat 10 times, for two sets, weekly. Works the whole calf muscle.
Sock & Weight: Place a weight (begin with two pounds, you can work your way up as you build strength) at the bottom of a long sock. Anchor the sock between the big toe and second toe, wrapping the remainder of the sock around the arch of the foot to secure. With the sock weight hanging, slowly raise the toes to point to the outside of your body, then swing them back down to the center, pointed to the floor. Swing the toes to the opposite direction, pointed inward, then return to center again. Perform this U-shaped swing for 10 reps, twice weekly.
Gastrocnemius: Sit on floor with legs stretched out in front of you. Lift the toes and begin to flex the foot upward. Reach your arms to your toes, and hold for two seconds. Repeat 10 times, daily. This works to stretch the calf muscles.
Soleus: In the same seated position, bend one knee toward the chest at a 90-degree angle, while keeping the other leg straightened. Flex the foot of the bent leg so that the toes are pointed upward and heel is on the floor. Grab the foot with both hands and gently pull the toes toward your chest as much as possible. Hold for two seconds and repeat 10 times. Then switch legs and begin sequence again. Perform daily. Stretches the muscles in the back of the leg.
Straight-Leg Hamstrings: Lie on your back, one leg bent with foot flat on the floor. Straighten the other leg and lift it as high as possible, aiming for a 90-degree angle with the floor. Using the foot that’s in the air, press the heel toward the ceiling. Feel the stretch in the back of the leg, and for a more-advanced pose, lift the torso up and reach the hands toward the foot in the air. A rope or exercise band may also be used to assist with this exercise. Hold the stretch for two seconds and repeat 10 times. Then switch legs and begin sequence again. Perform daily. Stretches the muscles in the back of the thigh.
source: Yahoo She