Are your shoes harmful to your health?

high heels

Could your favorite footwear be harmful to your health? While we have a tendency to emphasize fashion over comfort, it turns out trotting about in your favorite stylish soles could be wreaking havoc on your body, from your toes all the way up to your neck. But here’s the shocker: those high heels aren’t the only culprit. As it turns out, some of your favorite flats can be just as bad.

Why? It all comes down to a lack of support. High heels have gotten steadily higher over the past decade, with six-inch heels now replacing three-inch heels as the norm. Without proper support and alignment for the foot, a host of toe and foot injuries can occur. Walking in such an unbalanced fashion also stresses the hips and back and can lead to joint damage.

With such painful results from their favorite pumps, it’s no wonder many women swap for the flattest shoe in their closet once the weekend hits. Flimsy ballet flats and flip-flops are now the go-to choice for footsore women, as they’re fashionable, can be cheaply had (often for less than $20), and are much more comfortable than heels. But the lack of arch support and the super-thin soles (which fail to adequately absorb shock) put stress on your joints, moving upward through the ankle, knee, and hip, and on to the back.

All of this explains why the number of women visiting a doctor for foot problems shot up by 75% between 2006 and 2009. If you’re hoping to avoid your own appointment, there are a few things you can do. Orthopedic inserts, many of which are slim and unobtrusive, act as shock absorbers and can offer arch support; even a $10 pair from the drugstore will do. Limiting the amount of time you spend on your feet also helps; if you plan on wearing super-high heels to dinner, switch to something less stressful for dancing.

However, ultimately, the most essential thing you can do for your feet is switch to more sensible shoes. That means lower heels in the evening and sturdier flats for work or errand days. A great place to start is Cole Haan, home of the fashionable yet comfortable Cole Haan Air line. While sticking to sensible shoes might mean buying less frivolous new pairs for your closet, in the long run, your body will thank you and you won’t be too footsore to dance the night away.

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