“The right pair of shoes can change your life”, said Cinderella
Most people I know have an obsession with shoes. The kind that have closets full of them but still dream of the next pair they can get their hands on -oops sorry, get their feet into.
Like Imelda (yes Marcos), unfortunately she’s not around to ask whether they were worth it? No, not the price, but the health cost.
As with every choice or choices we make in our lives, we must bear the consequences. And those of bad footwear bring bad news for your body, though the shoe lobby and fashonistas will tell you – a good pair no matter how uncomfortable can make you feel super empowered- (even if everyone is talking to your Louboutins and not you, so what?)!
Sadly, here’s some grim advice which bursts the bubble of sexy shoes. We all learn a bit too late that bad footwear aka poorly designed shoes, that don’t fit properly, can cause a number of short and long-term health problems, so, it’s important to be clued up on what you’re putting on your feet.
The bottom line is that shoes need to be address three primary functions:
- to protect our feet,
- to enable us to walk wherever we want
- to provide comfort when we are on our feet for long periods of time.
If footwear is incorrect then short term problems can become long term ones so make sure you put your best foot forward and avoid any problems.
Short Term Problems Could Include:
Ill-fitting shoes can cause damage to your feet almost immediately. Some of the more common conditions include:
Corns are often caused by prolonged pressure to the specific area – usually from poorly fitting footwear. Shoes that are too loose can allow your foot to slide and rub or designs that place excessive pressure on a certain area of the foot, and closed shoes that are tight around your toes, are the most likely contenders to cause corns. They can be painful and annoying at the same time.
Nail and fungal problems like ingrown toenails are caused when the sides of the nail pierce the surrounding skin, are a particular nuisance and can be painful. Wearing shoes and socks that do not fit properly and are too tight places pressure to the sides of the toes and can push the skin into the nail plate, so can cutting your toenails incorrectly.
This condition affects the damp and sweaty areas of the foot, particularly between the toes and the toe webbing spaces (especially in tight fitting shoes which bring the toes in close proximity to each other for the duration of wearing those shoes) and often under the inner arch of the foot.
It causes intense itching, inflammation and flaking of the skin, and is simultaneously unsightly, uncomfortable, and extremely contagious, especially where people are walking barefoot.
Short term problems can be alleviated but it’s the long-term damage that could cause irreversible stress to the body:
Prolonged overloading as a result of shoes that don’t provide adequate support can ultimately cause all sorts of joint problems such as arthritis and also knee pain – especially in the case of high heels.
Our knees are forced to bend more to substitute for the reduced shock absorbing at the feet when the heel hits the ground during walking.
Ill-fitting footwear can also lead to deformities such as bunions and bony lip development around the larger foot joints.
Collapsed or ‘fallen’ arches (more commonly known as ‘flat feet’) is the term used to describe the instance when somebody’s feet have low or no arches/ the feet as a consequence press flat against the ground.
Wearing shoes that have no heel at all does not offer support to those people who have tight calf muscles and Achilles tendon due to collapsed arches.
Chronic Back Problems
There are number of potential problems that might arise from wearing improper footwear (especially heels) over a prolonged period, some of which target your back.
Lumbar spinal muscle action can be exacerbated, leading to overuse with eventual stiffening and resulting in postural changes. Also, possible lumbar intervertebral disc compression (due to poor footwear) can lead to lower back pain.
High heels can affect the vocal cords
Helen Sewell, a leading voice, and communication coach in the UK has suggested that wearing heels all day could lead to faster, shallower breathing and damage the vocal cords. (1*).
Some factors to consider when treating yourself to a new pair of shoes include:
- Ensure there is enough room in the front of your shoes to wiggle your toes freely. If the shoe is squeezing your toes, then you put yourself at risk of compression lesions,corns, and numbness.
- Ideally your shoes should have a fastening which allows you to adjust the fit of your shoe when necessary.
- Shoes should have a slight heel gradient (around 20 – 40 mm high), be broad for stability and to offset any tightness that you may have in your Achilles tendon.
- The upper part of the shoe is best made with natural materials for general flexibility, durability, and comfort.
- Cushioning inside the shoe is great for comfort and the reduction of the shock of impact when landing on your heel and pushing off from the balls of your feet whilst walking.
It is also a good idea to consider changing into specialised shoes if you are going to be walking for a long period of time before work or an event. I have noticed an increasing number of people/ commuters, wear “sensible shoes” or comfy shoes for the journey, and then change into more formal shoes once at the office.
Be mindful and deliberate on the footwear you buy. Not only will you be looking after your feet better, but comfortable footwear will also enable and encourage you to walk further, and for longer periods of time.