Whether it's while giving a formal work presentation, meeting with clients, or attending a wedding, most women wear high-heeled shoes at one time or another. But wearing high heels can cause health problems ranging from bunions to plantar fasciitis to knee and lower back pain. Although it may be hard to avoid heels altogether, your choice of footwear doesn’t have to wreck your feet, legs, or overall health. Here are six ways to minimize the negative effects of high heels.
1. CHOOSE YOUR HEEL HEIGHT WISELY.
When you’re shopping for fancy footwear, stilettos may catch your eye, but try to buy a heel with a gradual incline—like a platform or wedge—rather than a steep one. According to Dr. J. Scott Rosenthal of Airport Podiatry Group, the more walking you’re planning to do, the lower the heel and the wider the toe should be. “If you are going to dinner and a movie, for example, the heel can be high and pointy [since you'll be sitting most of the time]. But an event where standing for more than an hour is involved, a lower heel [less than 3 inches] and a less pointy toe is recommended to avoid overloading the forefoot and toes,” Rosenthal tells mental_floss.
2. CONSIDER A HEEL WITH A SHOCK ABSORBING CUSHION…
Not all insoles are created equal: Seek out heels that have padding in the footbed. Podiatrist Dr. Phillip Vasyli told Shape that you should add an insert to your shoe or look for high quality footwear that supports the ball of your foot with cushioning. Not sure where to start? Brands like Clarks and Söfft are known for their padded insoles, and Dr. Scholl's makes cute, comfortable heels now, too. Taryn Rose kicks things up a notch by creating pumps with extra toe space and a layer of cushioning memory foam in the insole.
3. …OR A DETACHABLE HEEL.
Lugging your sandals or flats to every event you attend while wearing high heels gets old fast. Designer Tanya Heath makes high heels with detachable heels, so you can swap your low, sensible office heels for the sky-high variety before a dinner date. At the end of the evening, just clip the lower heels back into place for a more comfortable walk home.
4. SLIP THEM OFF WHEN YOU’RE SITTING DOWN.
According to podiatrist Dr. Jason Bruse, slipping your heels off when you don’t need to wear them can considerably lessen the pain you might feel. “Wear them in a business meeting and take [them] off when you sit in your desk,” Bruse told Salt Lake City's Fox 13. Wearing your heels only when absolutely necessary can reduce the likelihood that you develop heel-related health problems such as ankle sprains, early onset osteoarthritis, and joint problems.
5. STRETCH YOUR TOES AND FEET TO MINIMIZE PAIN.
Because chronic high heel wearing can shorten your Achilles tendon, podiatrists suggest doing simple stretches and exercises to combat any damage to your feet. Tap your toes while sitting at your desk, stretch your toes back towards your ankle, do heel raises, or stretch your calves. Women’s Health has helpful diagrams of stretches heel wearers should master.
6. SOAK YOUR FEET.
When you get home after a night out, take your heels off, breathe a sigh of relief, and head to the tub. Soaking your feet in warm water for 15 minutes or so can feel relaxing, relieve pain, and bring down swelling. And add a cup of Epsom salts (magnesium sulfate) to the bath to further ease pain and inflammation.