News Release

May 3, 2006

Contact: Jane Shaskan, 860-679-4777

The Lowdown on High Heels

Podiatrist Tackles Shoe Fashion vs. Foot Health

FARMINGTON, CONN. – “My feet are killing me.” It’s not an uncommon refrain from women, especially women in high heels. And it’s no wonder, says Douglas Albreski, D.P.M., director of Podiatric Dermatology Services at UConn Health Center. High-heeled shoes put the feet in an unnatural position, Dr. Albreski explained, and prolonged walking in heels places unnecessary stress on the back and neck. All of which can lead to permanent changes in posture.

“It’s not unusual for career women who regularly wear high heels to find themselves in pain when they switch over flat shoes. Years in high heels causes the Achilles tendon to shorten, making it ‘too short’ for flats,” he said. “With the regular wear of flat shoes and stretching exercises, it should return to resolve itself.

“High-heels with pointed toes and thin soles cause crowding of the toes and offer little if any support,” said Dr. Albreski. “Women can experience pain in the balls of their feet, and develop blisters, corns, calluses, back pain, and aching heels. The pressure on the toes can lead to deformities, such as bunions, claw toes, corns and thickening of the nails.”

According to Dr. Albreski another problem, almost exclusive to women, is neuroma, caused by tight and narrow styles. “When the shoe pushes your foot in tighter and pinches a nerve, tissue grows around that nerve and cause severe pain,” said Dr. Albreski. “This occurs between the third and fourth toes or along the sole of the foot. In extreme cases, surgery may be required.”

Open-toed sandal heels and backless sandals pose yet another problem. “There is little support from a few straps,” said Dr. Albreski. “A quick turn or stumble can easily cause you to become off-balance, putting you at risk for a fall and a turned ankle or worse,” he said. “Platform shoes, popular this season, are even more unstable.” Toes are at risk too. “Toes often extend over sandals exposing them to injury and pain,” said Dr. Albreski.

Preventing foot problems is Dr. Albreski’s primary goal. His advice:

  • Shop for shoes late in the day.
  • Try on different brands.
  • Wear the socks/stockings you plan to wear with the shoes.
  • Buy the right size. Feet widen and lengthen with age – have them measured regularly.
  • Shoes should be comfortable when you try them on – don’t try to “break them in.”
  • Buy different sneakers for different athletic activities.
  • Limit the amount of time wearing of high heels.

“Ideally, I’d like to convince women that there are plenty of nice looking shoes out there with low heels and good support and to stay away from high heels, and that includes chunky and wedge heels,” said Albreski. “But realistically, I’ll advise them to save those high-fashion heels for extra special occasions.”

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