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High heels: Which shoe is right for you?

How your foot type should influence your choice in shoe.

With the 2016 Spring Racing Carnival in full swing and Melbourne Cup around the corner, many Aussies will be dusting off their heels to complete their race look. While it’s no secret that an extended stint in heels is uncomfortable, experts say there are a few things you should consider before putting on your heels. 

Research is increasingly linking high heels and incorrect footwear to adverse health effects, including osteoarthritis and back pain, which could explain why new Medibank Better Health Index data shows 42.8% of women under 50 experienced back pain in the last 12 months and 2.5% of the same age group suffered from osteoarthritis.

The link between high heels and osteoarthritis

There have been various studies into the connection between high heels and joint issues. In 1997, Harvard Medical School studied how the joints of 20 women responded to walking in high heels compared to being barefoot. Due to an increased force at the knee, they concluded that women who wear heels could be putting themselves at risk of degenerative changes in the joint, which could lead to osteoarthritis among other health issues.

Since then, a similar study conducted in 2013 came to similar results, finding that wearing heels dramatically decreased mobility at the talocalcaneal joint in the foot among participants, and around half showed signs of instability in their walk.

Impact on stability and mobility

Recent research into the effects heel height can have on balance and mobility found that regardless of how low the heel, having any elevation places more effort on the calf muscles. The study found that while balance and mobility was not impacted for those in low heels, this was not the case for higher heel wearers, with mobility worsening and standing balance being affected.

So what do you need to know when choosing your shoes? Sydney-based sports podiatrist Emily Smith gives us her expert advice.

Know your ankle stability and choose your heels accordingly

“Firstly, it’s a good idea to test your ankle stability by standing on the balls of your feet in front of a mirror. If your ankles and feet roll outwards then the more stable your heel should be and considering a wedge or Cuban heel would be wise for longer term comfort. If you are able to stand on the balls of your feet with consistent stability and pressure through your big toe, it is likely you can handle wearing a narrower stiletto.”

The more enclosed the shoe the better

“As a general rule, the more enclosed the shoe the better. One-strap stilettos and backless slides will fatigue your feet more quickly than more enclosed counterparts.”

Be vigilant about when it’s time to make a trip to a shoe cobbler.

“To know when it’s time, just stand the pair you suspect may need some remedial action on a flat surface. Do they sit straight and solid?  Any wobbling or leaning to either direction is a sure sign they need attention and you may need a discrete insole to help correct the imbalance long term.”

Find out Emily’s secrets to making high heels more comfortable. 


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