It’s no secret that high heels are very in for Spring 2011. And it’s also no secret that high heels are not great for your feet. But many women the world over love them because they provide an instant full-body makeover and image boost. Women are instantly taller with improved posture and increased self-confidence. But at what price to their feet? Wearing high heels all the time or frequently cramming your toes into them can cause a variety of foot problems:
- Bunions: According to the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons, nine out of ten bunions happen to women and are mostly caused by wearing shoes that are too small. The base of the big toe gets larger and sticks out. The skin over the bunion can become red and tender from rubbing against the shoe. As the bunion gets bigger, it causes the big toe to angle in towards the second toe and it can eventually tuck under the second toe. At this point, wearing any shoe can be extremely painful and some women will need surgery to find relief.
- Hammertoes: A hammer toe is a deformity of the second, third or fourth toes where the toe is bent at the middle joint. They are usually caused by a combination of wearing ill-fitting shoes and a muscle imbalance. When toes are forced into a shoe with a narrow toe end, they are forced into a flexed position The higher the heel, the more the foot is forced into the toe-end of the shoe which squishes the toes against the shoe, increasing the pressure and the bend in the toe. Over time, the toe muscles become unable to straighten. Corns and calluses can also develop on the bent joint area.
- Foot pain and Morton's Neuroma: Morton's neuroma is a painful swelling of the nerve between the third and fourth toes, usually in response to irritation, trauma or excessive pressure. The incidence of Morton's neuroma is 8 to 10 times greater in women than in men. As the foot is pushed forward into the crammed toe area of a shoe with the body full weight of your body focused in this area, inflammation can occur, often resulting in a neuroma.
But don’t throw out all your high heel shoes just yet. Follow these simple guidelines to avoid foot problems:
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It's easy to forget about your feet during the winter months because they are usually covered up with warm cosy socks, slippers or boots. But if you have any foot problems such as Toenail Fungus, Bunions, excessively dry cracked heels or Warts, now is the time to take care of them before the spring, before you pull out your sandals! Some foot problems can take weeks and even months to resolve. For example, if you opt for Laser Treatment to treat that stubborn toenail fungus, while the laser instantly kills the Fungus, it will take weeks for your toenails to grow out clear. Warts can take multiple treatments to eliminate as can severly cracked heels. And of course, if you have a bunion or anything else that requires surgery, you will need to allow time to heel and recover.
So, now is a good time to visit your podiatrist - make that call.
During the summer months, we are mostly concerned with how our feet will look in sandals and flip flops, but as the colder weather returns and we start to slip our feet back into closed shoes, we may experience pain or discomfort caused by any one of a number of foot ailments. For example, if you suffer from bunions, squeezing your foot back into a winter shoe or boot can be a painful experience. The same holds true for corns, hammertoes, nerve pain and ingrown toenails. Fortunately, there are ways to reduce or alleviate these problems.
Dr Hendizadeh of Associated Podiatrists in Connecticut and New York, treats patients for a variety of foot ailments. He says many foot or ankle problems are caused by improper footwear, physical stress, or small mechanical changes within the foot. Many of these can be avoided by following a few simple guidelines. For example, ingrown toenails which can be very painful when wearing tight fitting shoes, can be avoided by trimming your nails straight across and using a little petroleum jelly on the corners to soften the nails and prevent them from curling inwards.
Foot fungus, in the form of athlete's foot or toenail fungus, can become a problem in the colder months when our feet are mostly enclosed in socks and shoes. Fungus thrives in a dark moist environment so it is important to avoid a sweaty foot situation by wearing moisture-wicking socks and letting your feet air out. Dr Yale, also of Associated Podiatrists, recommends that you wash your feet regularly, especially between the toes, and be sure to dry them completely.
Bunions are particularly problematic in closed shoes. Wearing shoes that are too tight is the leading cause of bunions. A bunion is a bone deformity caused by an enlargement of the joint at the base and side of the big toe. Bunions are not hereditary, but they do tend to run in families, usually because of a faulty foot structure, and because they are bone deformities, they do not resolve by themselves. The goal for bunion treatment is twofold: first, to relieve the pressure and pain cause by irritations and second to stop any progressive growth of the enlargement by choosing shoes that are wider and do not put pressure on the bunion. Padding and orthotics (shoe inserts) are often used to reduce friction and skin irritation and to stabilize the joint and put the foot in the correct position in the shoe. In severe cases, surgery may be necessary.
Hammertoe is a condition where the toe is bent into a claw-like position. It is usually caused by a muscle/tenden imbalance which can be aggravated by shoes that don't fit properly. Hammertoe can affect any toe, but most frequently occurs to the second toe which is often longer and forced into a cramped position in tight fitting shoes. Avoid shoes with pointed toes, shoes that are too short in the toe area and high heels which force the toes against the front of the shoe.
Neuromas, which can be very painful, are enlarged benign growths of nerves, most commonly between the third and fourth toes. Neuromas are caused by tissue rubbing against and irritating the nerves. Pressure from ill-fitting shoes or abnormal bone structure can also lead to this condition. Depending on the severity, treatments may include orthotics, cortisone injections, and, in extreme cases, surgical removal of the growth.
Plantar fasciitis, commonly referred to as heel pain, is an inflammation on the bottom of the foot and can be caused by a variety of foot injuries or improper foot mechanics and can lead to severe heel and/or arch pain. Treatments range from icing and foot exercises to the prescription of custom orthotics to correct the foot position and help alleviate pain.
The bottom line is that many foot and ankle problems can be avoided by choosing your shoes wisely - don't be a slave to shoe fashion. Your first priority should be comfort.
If you experience ongoing pain in your feet or ankles that is not alleviated by good care and treatment at home, it may be time to visit a podiatrist. Your feet take 8,000 to 10,000 steps a day which adds up to 115,000 miles in a lifetime so it pays to take care of them.