News Release

April 20, 2004

Contact: Jane Shaskan, 860-679-4777

Hell on Heels

April Is Foot Health Awareness Month

FARMINGTON, CONN. – High heels are the devil’s work. Just ask any foot care specialist. “There are so many bad medical consequences that can result from wearing high heels,” said Douglas Albreski, D.P.M., director of Podiatric Dermatology Services at UConn Health Center. “Initially, women can experience pain in the ball of the foot. Then, add to that blisters, corns, calluses, back pain, and aching heels. And, further down the road, an increased risk of developing knee osteoarthritis.”

This condition is most common among women, which leads foot care specialists like Dr. Albreski and UConn orthopedic foot surgeon Samuel Berkowitz, D.P.M., to believe that high heels are the likely villain. “Osteoarthritis is characterized by the breakdown of joint cartilage, causing bones to rub against each other, and that results in pain and limits movement,” said Dr. Berkowitz.

But not all foot problems are caused by spike heels. Specialists can diagnose and treat a variety of common foot conditions, such as athlete’s foot and other fungi, bunions, hammertoes, corns, ingrown toenails, high arch or flat feet and chronic heel pain among others. Minor foot problems will respond well to conservative treatments, such as simply wearing well-fitted shoes with good support or anti-inflammatory medication and stretching exercise. For treating more complicated problems, Dr. Berkowitz uses the Foot Maxx system to analyze foot structure, pressure and walking technique to create customized foot orthotics when necessary.

When conventional methods aren’t enough, orthopedic surgeons provide surgical treatments for a variety of injuries and conditions requiring surgical interventions. “Surgery is always the last resort,” said Dr. Berkowitz. “But, for certain conditions, it’s the only effective treatment.”

Some of the foot-related conditions that call for surgery include: severe arthritis, loss of joint and muscle function, nerve disorders, genetic deformities, infections, tumors and common injuries, such as fractures, and complications due to obesity and Type II diabetes, the main risk factors for serious foot problems.

Prevention is always the first line of defense. Dr. Albreski and Berkowitz suggest people shop for shoes late in the day, try on different brands, and wear the socks or stockings they plan to wear with the shoes. When buying sport sneakers, more than one pair may be needed if you’re involved in different activities.

“I’d like to convince women to wear flats and stay away from high heels and that includes chunky heels, which may provide more stable footing, but still pose all the risks of stilettos,” said Albreski. “But realistically, I’ll advise them to save those high-fashion heels for extra special occasions,” he said.

Regardless of the kind of shoe you’re buying Dr. Berkowitz advised, “Always buy shoes that are comfortable when you put them on – forget about “breaking” them in; give your feet a break instead.”

Both Dr. Albreski and Dr. Berkowitz see patients at UConn Health Center. Also, Dr. Albreski sees patients at UConn Health Partners in East Hartford and UConn Medical Group in Simsbury; Dr. Berkowitz at UConn Health Partners in West Hartford. For more information, call 860-679-7692 or toll free 1-800-535-6232.

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