I’ve heard many friends in academia tell me “heels are just not for me”, and I get it. Seriously, I do.
Given the hours we may spend on our feet in a lecture theatre or conference hall, walking to and fro buildings on campus, and more, it’s not appealing to have our feet in distress all day.
And it certainly isn’t healthy.
But does it have to be uncomfortable to wear heeled shoes?
Is it possible to wear them, and neither skimp on comfort nor damage our gaits?
Wearing heels and our body posture
Studies have been published with regards to shoes and how they might affect our health. They have shown that high-heels can take their toll on the spine, hips, knees, ankles, and feet while altering one’s posture and gait (The Spine Health Institute).
“From an osteopathic perspective, we’re looking for the body to be centered from head to toe. High heels put the foot at an angle and pull muscles and joints out of alignment, so the effects aren’t limited to the feet,” Dr. Surve explains in this article by the American Osteopathic Association.
“It’s not unusual for people who spend lots of time in high-heels to have low back, neck and shoulder pain because the shoes disrupt the natural form of the body.”
Silva, de Siqueira & da Silva also conducted a study on Implications on high-heeled shoes on body posture of adolescents.
Their conclusion reads:
High-heeled shoes in adolescents can lead to the development of postural disorders, among which stands out the forward head posture, lumbar hyperlordosis, pelvic anteversion, and knee valgus. The height and width of the heels are characteristics that exert most influence in the emergence of postural changes and body imbalance.
However, flat shoes have not fared any better.
Mike O’Neill, a spokesman for the Society of Chiropodists and Podiatrists, says in this Guardian article, that flat shoes can “strain the Achilles tendon that runs from the back of the heel, and also the calf muscles in the back of the leg”.
Are we doing ourselves more harm than good when we try to hit the “stylish” mark with our footwear?
Score health and style points when you decide on footwear in the morning with the following tips…
#1 Make sure your shoes are the right size
How many times have we worn footwear that pinches a little bit just because it was too good to let go of?
That is not healthy. If it pinches, it’s got to go.
#2 Your shoes should give your toes wiggle room
There was a time (I was an undergrad) when pointed-toes were in fashion. I had one pair and rocked them till the sole gave way to a loud “clap, clap” sound as I walked down the ceramic-tiled hallway.
I was unperturbed.
Pointed-toes, no matter how cool they look, are not ideal. Don’t buy them. Let your toes breathe.
#3 Wear soft insoles
I once considered insoles a luxury purchase, but it does make a difference to your comfort level when you step out.
Our feet get the least love, but they’re almost the most used body part.
Academics may debate this point with me and argue for the fingers because we type a lot!
But overall, soft insoles cushion your feet and help you put less strain on your muscles.
#4 Alternate the style of shoes you wear
If you can do this throughout your day, perfect, but definitely switch up your footwear from day-to-day.
High heels have got issues, but so do wearing flat heels exclusively. It’s a balancing act for us.
#5 Exercise and stretches
It’s always a good idea to get moving and stay fit. Doing this takes care of our feet as well.
Heel That Pain has some great stretches and exercises demonstrated with videos that may help.
Now that we have the solutions out of the way, here is some footwear inspiration to get you started on staying stylish and foot-healthy.
For more shoe inspiration, please visit the Stylish Academic PINTEREST page.
You may also like to read: how to walk in high heels by Sophie Powell (Scientific Beauty)
Heels and your posture – National Posture Institute