For hundreds of years, women have been wearing various kinds of high heels for aesthetic reasons. Women who wear high heels appear to be taller and have longer and thinner legs, and the wearer’s gait and posture changes. Though high heels have had an association with femininity and have kept them popular over the years, there are definite health problems caused by wearing them too frequently.
The motion of the ankle joints is limited when heels are worn. The ankle joint is very important to the body when it comes to walking. Because of their location, these joints have a great deal of weight put on them. Thus, it is very important to keep them as healthy as possible. The Achilles tendon is the main tendon in the ankle. Wearing high heels too often, studies have shown, can cause the calf muscle and Achilles tendon to shorten and stiffen. This can cause problems when shoes without heels are worn.
By putting a great deal of pressure on the ball of the foot and by forcing the toes into a small toe box, high heels can cause or may worsen many foot problems. These include corns, hammertoe, bunions, Morton’s neuroma and plantar fasciitis.
Not only does wearing high heels regularly have negative effects on the feet, the rest of the body can suffer as well. The knees, one of the most important joints in the entire body, can be affected by wearing high heels. High heels can cause the knees to stay bent all the time. Also, it can cause them to bend slightly inward as well. Doctors believe that women can suffer from osteoarthritis later in life because of constantly walking like in high heels. By limiting the natural motion of the foot during walking, high heels also cause an increased in stress on the knees.
Similarly, high heels can cause the back to go out of alignment. If high heels are worn constantly, the spine’s ability to absorb shock can cause continued back pain. They can compress the vertebrae of the lower back, and can overuse the back muscles.
However, this is not to say that high heels can never be worn. If worn occasionally and not often, they will not cause serious problems. They should not be worn every day. It’s important to wear them modestly to avoid the long-term physical health problems of the feet, knees, ankles, and back mentioned above.
A bunion is an enlargement of the base joint of the toe that connects to the foot, often formed from a bony growth or a patch of swollen tissues. It is caused by the inward shifting of the bones in the big toe, toward the other toes of the foot. This shift can cause a serious amount of pain and discomfort. The area around the big toe can become inflamed, red, and painful.
Bunions are most commonly formed in people who are already genetically predisposed to them or other kinds of bone displacements. Existing bunions can be worsened by wearing improperly fitting shoes. Trying to cram your feet into high heels or running or walking in a way that causes too much stress on the feet can exacerbate bunion development. High heels not only push the big toe inward, but shift one's body weight and center of gravity towards the edge of the feet and toes, expediting bone displacement.
A podiatrist knowledgeable in foot structure and biomechanics will be able to quickly diagnose bunions. Bunions must be distinguished from gout or arthritic conditions, so blood tests may be necessary. The podiatrist may order a radiological exam to provide an image of the bone structure. If the x-ray demonstrates an enlargement of the joint near the base of the toe and a shifting toward the smaller toes, this is indicative of a bunion.
Wearing wider shoes can reduce pressure on the bunion and minimize pain, and high heeled shoes should be eliminated for a period of time. This may be enough to eliminate the pain associated with bunions; however, if pain persists, anti-inflammatory drugs may be prescribed. Severe pain may require an injection of steroids near the bunion. Orthotics for shoes may be prescribed which, by altering the pressure on the foot, can be helpful in reducing pain. These do not correct the problem; but by eliminating the pain, they can provide relief.
For cases that do not respond to these methods of treatment, surgery can be done to reposition the toe. A surgeon may do this by taking out a section of bone or by rearranging the ligaments and tendons in the toe to help keep it properly aligned. It may be necessary even after surgery to wear more comfortable shoes that avoid placing pressure on the toe, as the big toe may move back to its former orientation toward the smaller toes.
Sesamoiditis is a condition that affects the joint that is just behind the big toe in the area known as the ball of the foot. It is most common in younger people and people who have just begun an exercise program. Since the sesamoid bones are like a pulley controlling the big toe, they can rub against each other and cause a gradual onset of pain. Pain may also be caused by the inflammation of tendons surrounding the bones. If ignored, sesamoiditis can lead to other, more serious problems such as severe irritation and fractures of the bones.
The cause of sesamoiditis is sudden increase in activity. The ball of your foot acts as a springboard to help you lift off when you are jogging or running. Sudden increase in the use of these bones or the tendon that controls them can cause irritation. The tendon then begins to develop inflammation and the joint begins to swell. People with smaller, bonier feet or those with a high arch are typically more susceptible to this condition.
Sesamoiditis is fairly simple to diagnose since the symptoms have a gradual onset rather than a sudden impact. The symptoms begin with slight irritation around the joint shortly after the increase in activity. The discomfort eventually turns to pain with light swelling and possibly redness. Although redness or bruising are rare, this may be a symptom. After each session of exercising, the aggravated joint becomes more irritated and increases into a very intense throbbing.
Treatment for sesamoiditis can vary depending on the severity of the situation. However, treatment is almost always approached in a noninvasive way. For a case that is just beginning the doctor may recommend a very strict rest period that will limit the activity allowed on the joint. If you must be active, a recommendation for as modified shoe or insole, along with bandaging and immobilizing the big toe will be made to ensure that pressure is not placed on the joint. For severe cases, it is typically recommended that the joint and the big toe be completely immobilized to allow adequate time to heal. Ice and an over the counter anti-inflammatory may can help with the pain and discomfort while you are at rest.
When you return to your regular exercise activities, it is recommended that you use an insole that will allow even distribution of impact to your entire foot, rather than just the balls of your foot. This will prevent further aggravation of the injury.
Gout, typically found in diabetic patients, is an unusually painful form of arthritis caused by elevated levels of uric acid in the bloodstream. The condition typically strikes the big joint on the big toe. It has also been known to strike the knees, elbows, fingers, ankles and wrists—generally anywhere that has a functioning, moving joint.
The high level of uric acid in a person’s bloodstream creates the condition known as hyperuricema—the main cause of gout. Genetic predisposition occurs in nine out of ten sufferers. The children of parents who suffer gout will have a two in ten chance of developing the condition as well.
This form of arthritis, being particularly painful, is the leftover uric acid crystallizing in the blood stream. The crystallized uric acid then travels to the space between joints where they rub, causing friction when the patient moves. Symptoms include: pain, redness, swelling, and inflammation. Additional side effects may include fatigue and fever, although reports of these effects are very rare. Some patients have reported that pain may intensify when the temperature drops, such as when you sleep.
Most cases of gout are easily diagnosed by a podiatrist’s assessment of the various symptoms. Defined tests can also be performed. A blood test to detect elevated levels of uric acid is often used as well as an x-ray to diagnose visible and chronic gout.
Treatment for gout simply means eliminating symptoms. Non-steroid anti-inflammatory drugs or NSAIDs (Colchicine and other corticosteroid drugs, etc.) will quell the redness, the swelling, and the inflammation. However, managing your diet, lifestyle changes, and using preventative drugs are all helpful toward fully combating the most severe cases.
Those that lead an inactive lifestyle are at a higher risk for gout. Any amount of exercise decreases the probability of repeat encounters with the condition. Reducing your consumption of red meat, sea food, and fructose-sweetened drinks also reduces the likelihood of chronic gout as well.
Ingesting Vitamin C, coffee, and particular dairy products can help with maintaining a healthy lifestyle. There are new drugs out on the market that inhibit the body’s production of uric acid-producing enzymes. However, reducing or eliminating your overall levels of uric acid is the best remedy to ensuring you lead a gout-free life.