By Chinwe Uzoechi
The doctor found out that heel wearers moved with shorter, more forceful strides than the control group, their feet perpetually in a flexed, toes-pointed position. This movement pattern continued even when the women kicked off their heels and walked barefoot. As a result, the fibers in their calf muscles had shortened and they put much greater mechanical strain on their calf muscles than the control group did.
“This is very familiar, it’s nothing new — we learned about it in medical school,” says Dr. cynthia, a doctor of podiatric medicine who sometimes wears heels. She adds that heels can also permanently shorten tendons and ligaments, including the all important Achilles’ tendon, which connects the heel to the calf. “It happens rather quickly — you might not be symptomatic, but I will say that with every step, you’re causing damage.”
So what’s a shoe-lover to do? While no heel is safe, there are some strategies for mitigating the ill effects of a love affair with stilettos:
1. Alternate Heights: If your tendon doesn’t get acclimated to the same height every day, it won’t shorten to a specific height, according to cynthia.
2. Stretch: Every day you wear heels (or, alternatively, every day — why not?), sit in a chair and use a yoga band or twisted sheet slung around your foot. Pull the band towards you as you stretch your toes forward.
3. Use Commuter Shoes: Especially city commuters walk a great deal on their routes to work. Use a supportive flat shoe on the unforgiving concrete of the sidewalk and save those four-inch show-stoppers for the absorbent carpets and cork floors of the office.
4. Choose a Wedge: Any heel that offers more surface area is putting less stress on the ball of the foot, so go with a chunky heel, wedge or even a platform.
5. Add Orthotics: Even an over-the-counter shoe insole can make a tottering heel more stable — and that can help its owner walk better.