Lower back pain, swollen and aching ankles, hallux valgus, inflammation of the Achilles tendon and Morton’s neuroma: these are some of the disorders that increasingly affect women who do not give up high heels. According to a study by the Pakistan Institute of Health Sciences, 86% of women suffer from pain caused by their frequent use. A relationship of hate and love that involves many celebrities such as Julia Roberts, Jennifer Lawrence and Kristen Stewart
“I don’t know who invented high heels, but all women owe them a lot,” said Marilyn Monroe, inseparable from her 11-heeled pumps. One can agree or disagree, but it is undeniable that this type of shoe, a symbol of elegance and sensuality, represents an accessory capable of highlighting a woman’s style and personality. There are many “vertiginous” models that are presented on the catwalks to dictate the latest trends. Not all shoes, however, are suitable for the conformation of each one: between foot shape, type of plantar arch and various pathologies, choosing the right model is fundamental to avoid traumas and pains that, unfortunately, are very common. A recent study carried out by the Pakistan Institute of Health Sciences published in the Health Science Journal showed that 86% of women experience pain caused by high heels: in particular, 77.5% suffer from forefoot pain, while 6% associate pain with the central area of the plant. A phenomenon that has led more and more women to rebel against the use of heels, especially when it is imposed by companies like in Japan, the protagonist of the #KuToo movement. Even international stars such as Julia Roberts and Kristen Stuart have chosen to follow this trend, taking off dizzying sandals on the red carpet and conveying a message of freedom. In addition to avoiding heels higher than 4 cm and wearing them less than three times a week, experts use laser therapy Theal Therapy to reduce recovery time in case of injury. But what are the problems associated with frequent use of this footwear?
“The use of high-heeled shoes has a negative effect on neuromuscular balance control, with a consequent alteration of the postural system. Kinematic and kinetic studies reveal that wearing high-heeled shoes alters walking, plantar pressure distribution, ground reaction forces and lower limb muscle activity,” says Angela Ravisato, doctor of podiatry. “The biomechanical alterations and musculoskeletal and bone deformities with the highest incidence are ankle ligament lesions, knee joint degeneration, lumbar pain and forefoot pathological conditions. The high heel causes an increase in pressure at the first metatarsophalangeal joint and at the central level of the forefoot with a decrease in pressure at the midfoot and heel. Anterior displacement leads to stiffness of the Achilles tendon, ankle joint instability and shortening of the calf muscles”.
But that’s not all. An interesting study comes from researchers at Hanseo University in South Korea, who wanted to investigate the damage caused by heels 10 cm high or more, examining their effects on 40 women who wear them regularly: the study showed that they are initially able to strengthen ankle muscles, but prolonged use causes muscle imbalance, a factor that endangers ankle wellbeing. One of the most common pathologies linked to the frequent use of “stilts” is the hallux valgus, a deformation of the fingers with simultaneous medial protrusion of the first metatarsal bone. Too tight shoes can cause the hammertoe, a deformity that takes on a bent appearance at the central joint of the finger itself and is associated with pain and callosity that can ulcerate in the most serious cases. Another pathology linked to the sole of the feet is Morton’s neuroma, an orthopaedic disorder affecting one of the nerves that crosses the foot: according to research by the UK Health and Social Care Information Centre published in the Daily Mail, between 2004 and 2015 this type of disorder increased by 115%. But not only that, cervicalgia, the common pain in the neck, can also be caused by the frequent use of heels, as well as by incorrect posture.
Rehabilitative podiatry, which, as Dr Ravisato assures, “aims at a conservative approach to the treatment and prevention of segments at risk of injury. Following functional, biomechanical and postural evaluation, it is possible to treat the painful foot with made-to-measure orthotics, bandages, intrinsic and extrinsic muscle exercises and instrumental physical therapy. The technology and development of electro-medicals has enabled faster recovery from pain with an optimal return to daily, work and sports activities. Mectronic, for example, has developed the laser device Theal Therapy, which allows to treat the specific pathological situation in a safe and selective way, maximising therapeutic results. A fundamental and challenging issue for rehabilitation effectiveness is the use of a shoe that is suitable for your foot, not short or narrow, and that adequately meets the requirements of quality, stability, cushioning and protection. If women insist on wearing high heels, they should at least favour a height of no more than 4 cm and wear them for less than 4 hours and less than three times a week to ensure comfort, well-being and above all reduce the risk of injury”.
Although heeled shoes have always been a mainstay of fashion, essential for the most important occasions and events, there are many celebrities who have publicly declared their resentment towards “stilts”: Kristen Stewart and Julia Roberts took off both dizzying sandals during the Cannes Film Festival to climb the legendary red staircase, thus rebelling against the extremely rigid dress code. A fall that has remained in the annals of fashion is that of top model Naomi Campbell, who lost her balance on the catwalk during a fashion show in 1993 when she fell from her 30 centimetre high heels. Not unlike her colleague Bella Hadid who during a fashion show in 2016, thanks to her 16 heeled sandals, slipped and fell to the ground before the incredulous eyes of the photographers. Victim of the combination of heels and long dress Jennifer Lawrence who, during the 2013 Oscars, stumbled on the steps of the stage just before collecting the statuette as best actress. If in the glamorous and glossy world of Hollywood stars high heels are an almost indispensable, sometimes dangerous accessory, on the other hand there are those who have led a real social battle against this type of shoes: in Japan actress and activist Yumi Ishikawa founded #KuToo, a new movement made up of women determined to say no more to the strict company rules that force them to wear high heels, presenting a petition to the government to ask them to choose, without male impositions, what to wear in the office.