“High heels? Painful pleasure,” observed fashion icon Christian Dior of the footwear. And he didn’t even have to wear them.
Although heels are no longer the standard, daily footwear for women (which is good considering the ankle pain and other physical effects of routine high-heels wear), they retain a niche for certain professional segments and for special occasions such as weddings. But the tide may be turning on the latter front, as more brides choose sneakers over heels to accompany their wedding gowns.
Your Feet and Comfort vs. Fashion
As a wedding expert points out in a recent article regarding the trend of “bridal sneakers,” a bride may be on her feet for upward of 12 hours on her wedding day. Comfort is an important consideration, and heels can strain the feet and legs, and cause discomfort.
Which is not to say that brides have to abandon style in favor of comfort. Many major designers and shoemakers now offer bridal sneaker options, some with decorative embroidering, others with lace or beadwork. There are even some with wedge-like soles to add a bit of height.
A number of bridal shops also offer independent sneaker options with custom embellishments to match bridal gowns. The increasing popularity of bridal sneakers has followed the general shift toward more casual, comfort-first fashion. In the case of shoes, we know that comfortable, supportive, properly fitting footwear are better for the body than shoes that force the feet into unnatural positions.
The Physical Effects of High Heels
In recent decades, science has proven what women have known for much longer: Wearing high heels is a pain. And doing so regularly has negative impacts.
Walking in high heels alters the natural position of the feet and ankles, and the effects of these contortions travel up the legs to the spine, according to a 2014 research review. That review calls the impacts of high heels “mostly negative,” and notes that high heels adversely affect balance and the muscle mechanics of walking.
Another recent study found that women who are new to wearing high heels may initially develop greater strength in the muscles around the ankles in response to the shoes’ positioning of the feet. However, the same study indicates that women who wore heels for years demonstrated premature weakening of the same muscles and had comparably poor balance.
Foot and Ankle Injuries
While wearing high heels for your wedding day alone poses little risk (unless the reception gets out of hand), scientists believe that the routine wear of high heels upends the strength ratio between certain muscle groups of the feet and ankles, stretches joints out of alignment, and places undue pressure on the forefoot. A strength imbalance in muscles around a joint, such as the ankle, can increase the risk of injury and chronic pain (like that associated with plantar fasciitis).
Ill-fitting or poorly constructed footwear in general can lead to recurring pain in the feet, legs and back. This discomfort can be made worse if you suffer from an existing foot or ankle problem (such as fallen arches), or a medical condition like diabetes. If foot and ankle soreness lingers for more than a couple weeks, or if the pain impacts your mobility, it’s a good idea to consult with a podiatrist.
The experienced podiatrists at the Foot & Ankle Center of Northern Colorado are dedicated to helping patients treat foot and ankle conditions, and find lasting relief from foot and ankle pain. Please call our Greeley office at 970-351-0900 or our Longmont office at 303-772-3232 to schedule your appointment.