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When high heels make a woman walk hunched over and leaning forward it will ruin the look of the prettiest shoes,' said fashion consultant Anna Bingemer-Lehr. The good news is high heels are suitable for basically every women, she said. However, not every high heel fits every woman. Full-figured women, for example, are better off in heels that have a wider base as opposed to delicate stilettos. She advises very short women and delicate, fine-boned women to wear shoes with a heel because they make them taller and make their legs look longer.
Issues and tips for wearing high heels
- High heels can throw weight onto the ball of the foot, which may lead to callus, painful bunions, corns and deformity.
- High heels can push the centre of mass in the body forwards, causing the spine to bend backwards to compensate. This can lead to back problems.
- Keep high heels for special occasions.
- Save backless high-heeled shoes for evening glamour. Backless shoes force your toes to claw as you walk, straining the muscles if worn over a long period.
- Calf stretches help to keep feet supple and keep a good range of movement. To stretch your calf and heel, stand facing a wall with feet hip width apart and slightly bent at the knee. Take one step forwards, and using your arms to lean against the wall, keep your leg in front bent and the leg behind straight. Both feet should be flat on the ground. Lean in towards the wall, as you do, you should feel your muscles stretching in your calf and heel. Hold and slowly return to a standing position. Do this with each leg about five times. Seek further help if you experience problems doing this exercise.
- Vary your heel heights from day to day, one day wearing low heels, and the next day slightly higher heels.
- Vary shoe types.
- For everyday use, keep heel heights to about 4cm.
- Consider wearing shoes with a strap or lace over the instep rather than slip-ons. This will help stop your foot sliding forward, a bit like a seatbelt in a car.
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Above all else, shoes should provide a sturdy base, said Monika Richter of a product research and testing institute in Germany. Richter is responsible for shoe development and research at the institute and she recommends women look at a shoe closely before slipping it on. Check whether it is able to stand on its own. Some fall over, she noted.
The shoe should stand on the entire surface of the heel, not just one of its edges, she said. The same is true of the area under the ball of the shoe. If there is only one point where the sole of the shoe touches the floor, then it doesn't offer sufficient footing.
The shoe shouldn't fit loosely at the heel and the inside shouldn't be like a slick slide that forces the foot forward and puts pressure on the toes, said Richter, noting that these issues deal with the fit of the shoe and the material used for the insert as opposed to the height of the heel.
'If there is enough space at the back of the shoe to insert a finger, I can't solve the problem by asking for one size smaller,' she said. This should signal to a woman that she should look for another style.
Opinions differ on the question of what heel height is appropriate. Women with very small feet risk putting their foot on a very steep angle so that the ball of the foot isn't horizontal with the ground, said Angela Moewes of the German professional association for orthopaedic doctors and accident surgery. Moewes said big feet on the other hand can manage on heels up to 10 centimetres high.
High heels are a thing to get used to. Moewes warns women against spontaneously choosing heels that are 3 or 4 centimetres higher than the height they normally wear. Women who want to change to a higher heel should start with 1 or 2 centimetres higher.
A look in the mirror can determine whether the heel is too high. By walking ten steps toward a long mirror it's possible to tell quickly whether one's posture is elegant or not while wearing the shoes. By looking at the side view, women can tell whether their body is leaning forward, said Bingemer-Lehr. It is a bad sign if it does.
High heels can have serious effects on the feet. Deformities such as claw feet and hammer toes are common conditions caused by high heels. Other common problems are bunions at the big toe joint or a little toe that rests under the toe next to it, said Moewes. Long-term strain on these areas can lead to a fracture.
In recent years fashion trends have drifted toward higher heels, said Bingemer-Lehr. Recently, however, designers have begun putting a thicker 'plateau' under the front of the foot so that the height difference from the ball of the foot to the heel isn't as great and the shoe is more comfortable.