Ways high heels can harm your feet, body

Wearing very high heels for long periods of time daily can put extra stress on your spine, hips and knees, causing pain and discomfort.  PHOTO/file

Pellan Atukunda cannot wear high heeled for a long time. However, because of the nature of her job, she sometimes has to put them on for extended periods of time.
"After a long day wearing high heeled shoes, I will have sleepless nights because of the pain I feel in my legs and thighs. Usually, this pain will last for more than two days," she says.

When she went to consult a doctor, she was advised to wear the heels for short periods of time. Now, if she has to wear high-heeled shoes, she also carries comfortable sandals or sneakers in her bag. The moment she starts to feel any discomfort, she changes into her comfortable shoes.

With 26 bones, 33 joints and more than 100 muscles, ligaments and tendons, your feet are complex and play an important role in your balance, support, posture and well-being. Foot issues;  in this case, high heels – can lead to an imbalance, poor posture, pain and ongoing foot problems.
So, before you wear high-heeled shoes, consider some of the risks associated with them. Sometimes the pain is not always worth the price of fashion.

Dr Norman Stephen, a sports doctor and physiotherapist with the She Cranes, says generally, heels higher than two inches (five centimetres) can increase pain and discomfort in the knees, hip and lower back. 
Dr Norman says wearing high-heeled shoes for extended periods, even without walking, can still cause discomfort and back pain since they can alter one’s posture and put extra strain on one’s lower back. It is, therefore, essential to choose heels that one finds comfortable and limit the time you wear them.

Foot and ankle pain 
According to www.betterhealth.com, high heels can put excessive pressure on the front of your feet, leading to pain and discomfort, especially in the ball of the foot and toes. They can also make your ankles more susceptible to twisting or spraining due to the altered angle of the foot.
High heels can shorten and tighten your calf muscles and Achilles tendon, potentially leading to discomfort or injury. This constant mechanical stress on the heel and tendon can cause inflammation, pain and swelling of the tendon. Being overweight can make the problem worse.

Knee and lower back pain 
The altered posture caused by high heels can affect your knee joint alignment and increase the risk of knee pain. Dr Stephen adds that high heels can disrupt your natural spinal alignment, leading to lower back pain and discomfort. 

When you wear thigh-heeled shoes, according to www.stylecraze.com, your center of gravity is brought forward and in order to balance, you have to arch your lower back. This, in turn, can compress the joints in your lower back as well as make your back extensor muscles stiff, causing an unequal distribution of weight that may trigger soreness and pain in the lower back.

Therefore, constantly wearing high heels can force your body forward, affecting your posture and causing strain on your lower back and neck.
High heels can also make it more challenging to maintain balance, increasing the risk of falls and injuries. Also, the pressure and friction from high heels can lead to the development of painful corns and calluses on your feet.
While high heels may offer temporary benefits in terms of height and appearance, they can lead to long-term health issues if worn frequently.

Minimising effects
Dr Norman Stephen, a sports doctor and physiotherapist with the She Cranes, gives the following tips on minimizing the effects:
•Choose comfortable alternatives. Opt for flats, low-heeled shoes, or sneakers for everyday wear to give your feet a break. Limit the use of high heels to events or situations where they are necessary, rather than daily wear.

•Invest in quality, supportive footwear and select shoes that provide good arch support and cushioning to minimise discomfort.
•Sometimes, opt for wedge heels or chunky heels. These styles provide more stability and distribute weight more evenly than stiletto heels. Choose heels that are two inches or lower to reduce the impact on your feet and body.
•Use insoles or inserts which can be bought from most pharmacies at about Shs10,000. Cushioned insoles can provide additional comfort and support when wearing high heels.

•Stretch and strengthen your feet and legs. Regular stretching exercises can help improve the flexibility and strength of your lower limbs.
•Alternate shoe choices. Change into more comfortable shoes during breaks or after wearing high heels for an extended period.
•Maintain proper posture. Be mindful of your posture while wearing high heels to reduce strain on your back and legs.
•Listen to your body. If you experience discomfort or pain while wearing high heels, take them off and allow your feet to recover.
•Consult a physiotherapist or a foot physiotherapist or podiatrist or orthopedist. If you have chronic foot or back issues related to wearing high heels, seek professional guidance and advice on managing these problems.

You can protect your feet by practicing moderation. The best advice is to stick with a heel that is no higher than three inches, and vary your heel height as much as possible: high heels one day, comfy flats the next. And always give your feet a break if they hurt; carry sensible shoes with you so you can change if you need.

Experts say women who wear high heels often should practice heel lifts and drops whenever possible to prevent injury to ankles and other leg muscles.

 Stand barefoot, then rise onto your toes repeatedly; then stand on the edge of a stair and slowly lower your heel over the edge. Doing both exercises regularly can help strengthen your ankle muscles.