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Are your shoes bad for your health?

As women, we love the look and feel of a brand new pair of shoes. Strutting around in a sexy pair of stilettos or some cute wedges can feel extraordinary. But those gorgeous Manolos and Gucci pumps can be doing you more harm than you realize. We share a few things you may want to consider before strapping on your favourite summer heels.

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Back pain

According to podiatric surgeon Mike O’Neill, spokesman for the Society of Chiropodists and Podiatrists, high heels cause your centre of gravity to be pushed forward, which changes the position of your spine as it attempts to compensate. When it does this, a painful condition called sciatica can occur, where the nerves become trapped, which causes pain and numbness as far down as the feet.

Damage to the knee joints

A study done at Iowa State University by biochemist Danielle Barkema indicated that wearing high heels puts you at greater risk of developing knee osteoarthritis later in life, because high heels place greater pressure on the insides of the knees, which can lead to joint degeneration. The study also indicated that wearing high heels changes a woman’s posture, causing the ankles to tilt inward and destabalizing the ankle joints. Though wearing heels is not guaranteed to cause long-term damage, Barkema concluded that the study contributes to the accumulating evidence that heels are not the best choice for the body.

Muscle alterations

In 2010, the Journal of Experimental Biology published a study in which women who wore heels five times a week for two years had calf muscles that were 13 per cent shorter and Achilles tendons that were significantly thicker and stiffer than those of women who wore flat shoes. The study also showed that the women who wore high heels regularly couldn’t flex and point their feet to the same degree as the other women could. The study’s author, Marco Narici, suggested that women who wear heels regularly may experience calf pain when barefoot or when wearing flat shoes and may be less efficient at flat-shoed activities such as running. He doesn’t expect women to stop wearing heels altogether, but does recommend restricting their use to special occasions and stretching out leg muscles frequently.

Permanent changes to the feet

According to Dr. Orly Avitzur, medical advisor for consumer reports, heel-wearing can lead to bunions, hammer toes, fractures, ligament tears and dislocated or sprained ankles. She advises to avoid wearing them when consuming alcohol, as it impairs balance and coordination and increases the risk of taking a dangerous or damaging tumble. She also recommends opting for a wide toe box rather than a pointy toe and switching into flats whenever possible. Avitzur understands the enjoyable look of heels but encourages women to take them off for a breather frequently and to change into flat shoes if experiencing any pain or when dancing is imminent.

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