Women, Put Your Best Foot Forward

Women's feet are not just a smaller version of men's feet—they're uniquely designed and, therefore, need different support. The American Orthopedic Food and Ankle Society (AOFAS) found that 80 percent of women have foot problems, and not all of those are baby boomers.

Yes, I know why woman wear heels, after all, I'm 5'4" and always wanted to be at least 5'7". We feel more feminine, slimmer and better-dressed when we wear high heels. That said, the amount of woman over 55 that are suffering with symptoms that often can be directly related to the type of heel on their shoes is astounding. Researchers know most women's foot problems are due to their footwear; these problems are not found in men!

Poorly fitting shoes affect more than just feet. Shoes with a heel of 11/2 inch or higher increase knee torque with walking, which is believed to be associated with the increase of knee osteoarthritis among women of all ages who prefer higher-heeled shoes. Additionally, pain caused by an ill-fitting shoe can increase the risk of falling and hamper mobility, which may lead to injury—particularly significant in the elderly population. According to Judith Baumhauer, MD, professor of orthopedics surgery at the University of Rochester School of Medicine, over 88 percent of woman wear shoes that are too small and too tight, and the heel is too high.

Slipping out of Grace
Numerous studies examined footwear in elderly patients at the time of a fall and showed that a high percentage of those who fell were wearing slippers. The excessive flexibility of slippers and their lack of stability are associated with a higher incidence of tripping and falls. This is important for us all to remember, especially those of you with elderly parents or anyone using stairs. Avoiding a fall could be as easy as wearing proper footwear, even slippers.

Vanity at a Huge Expense
Having grown up in a family of great dancers, I began wearing three inch heels probably by the age of 13 when I began ballroom dancing. I remember believing only "old people" have problems that prevent them from wearing heels...not so. Now days, young women in their 20s and 30s are experiencing foot conditions that can effect their quality of life for the rest of their lives...it's just not worth the damage we cause for the sake of vanity...yes, hindsight is 20/20 but so it forewarned is forearmed.

The following are causes and symptoms of wearing those high heels, many times not manifesting until years later:

Fatigue and Reduced Blood Flow to the Brain—Heels over two inches high can increase muscular tension throughout the lower extremities by constricting blood vessels.limiting blood supply to muscles and the brain.

Arthritis and Knee Strain—Studies linked high heels to increased risk of knee pain and strain and the resulting arthritis. A study published in The Lancet, reported that Harvard researchers linked a 24 percent increase in knee pain/ strain in women wearing heels around 2.7 inches; young women listen carefully...keep in mind the repeated strain may not show up for many years and is often believed to be the reason for high incidence of knee surgeries in all women.

Low Back Pain—High heels force the wearer to walk with the pelvis arched forward causing hyperlordosis (backward bending) of the lumbar spine. This unnatural curvature places excessive stress and strain on the low back—resulting in low back pain and possible long-term damage.

Nerve Inflammation—Increased low back pressure can cause compacting effects on the spine along with the related nerve inflammation.restricting or cutting-off healthy blood flow to other organs and tissues.

Foot Pain and Ingrown Toe Nails— High heels are linked to multiple foot conditions including metatarsalgia (pain in the ball of the foot) and Morton's neuroma—a thickening of tissue around a nerve between the third and forth toes. Incidences of ingrown toe nails are now in epidemic numbers, those pointed toes on high heels cause unnatural pressure to nails that forces them to grow inward.

Bunions—High heels are also linked to bunions#8212;a deformation occurring usually at the base of the large toe causing swelling, redness and pain. The surgery to repair a bunion is very painful and many times involves inserting a metal rod for up to six weeks. It's better to change our footwear than being forced to submit to surgery.

Ankles, Pelvis and Spine—Heels greater than two inches create health-depleting biomechanics#8212;placing unnecessary stress on ankles, knees, pelvis, and the spine.

Plantar Fasciitis—An irritation and swelling of the thick tissue on the bottom of the foot, commonly the heel or outer ledge. It is usually worse in the morning and may improve after movement. This is one of the most common orthopedic complaints relating to the foot at any age. The plantar fascia is the flat band of tissue (ligament) connecting your heel bone to your toes and supports the arch of your foot. A tight Achilles tendon is one of the culprits, the tendon connecting calf muscles to the ankle and foot swell, causing pain when applying pressure. Wearing high heels puts added pressure on this tendon and can cause or accelerate the condition.

What's Changing? Shoe designers have listened to the trend of consumers and their foot disorders. Now, one of the characteristics of designer comfort shoes is a wider "toe box" with more wiggle room and more arch support. In addition, the heels don't lift you up and throw your foot to the front of the shoes.they lift you up and rest you on your arch with more padding and cushioning than ever before.

Consumer demand has forced designer shoe manufacturers to fulfill the need by designing and offering stylish shoes they wouldn't have been caught dead selling before. Forty million (and counting) baby boomer women are a force to be reckoned with, they are fashion conscious but also informed realists. they're expecting their footwear to help walk them through the best part of their lives, without hurting or causing other health conditions.


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