Research undertaken by The University of Aberdeen has, quite unsurprisingly, found a link between wearing high heels and an increased risk of bunions, pain and injury. As a wearer of high heels, I for one know how painful hours spent tottering around in tight fitting stilettos can be. They force the foot down into the toe box as well as putting immense pressure on the ball of the foot, focusing the entire weight of the body on a very small area, especially if the heel is very small.
Whilst this news (and lets be honest, for most women who wear high heels, it isn’t going to be “news”) is likely to reopen the debate on on whether women should be pressured to wear heels in the office, we aren’t suddenly going to see stilettos disappear into the ether in favour of an office full of ballet pumps, which by the way can be equally as bad for your feet.
Why won’t women heed the warnings? Well, because despite the pain and the ensuing foot deformity, many women like wearing heels. It isn’t just about how heels can elongate the legs, although being a women who has always had, as my mother put it “dancers calves”, or as my Dad put it “my calves”, wearing heels certainly gives my legs the appearance of being a little more giraffe and a little less rugby player. It is also the fact that women in an office environment feel more empowered when they wear high heels. After all, most women are shorter than their male colleagues so a couple of extra inches in height afforded by heels helps us women have a conversation at the level of the face rather than the tie. Heels also focus the mind on walking and gait. Whilst the view is that women ‘totter’ in stilettos in truth, so long as they are not ridiculously dominatrix style high, an accomplished stiletto wearer walks with purpose and with a straight back, head held high. Now I am not saying that wearing flats makes a you a hunch back but I certainly pound the floors harder and less elegantly when I am in flats. Maybe that is just me.
Whilst I enjoy wearing heels, and let me be clear here, the ONLY heels I now wear are wide fit ones because I have wide feet and, I like many women, am concerned that my once pretty pieds are slowing morphing into, well lets just say less pretty pieds……due to years of wearing ill-fitting shoes that squeeze and rub and, quite frankly, deform. I am now embracing the kitten heel. “Finally”, I hear you cry, “she has got onto the point of this post!”
Kitten heels are a compromise on high heels without compromising on style and elegance. I wear my wide fit kittens at work and still feel empowered, and I do also feel they slim down my calves, but by putting less pressure on the ball of the foot and spreading my weight more evenly across the whole of my foot I am not doing such damage to the delicate bones in the foot and I am not forcing my toes forward into the smaller toe box that stilettos are styled to have.
If you are a lover of heels I encourage you to try going lower and embracing the kitten heel. The most popular kitten heel has a pointed toe but this style can still force your toes into a triangle shape which can create hammer toes, corns and possibly bunions. A wide fit pointed toe is a good choice, however, as it simply offers more space at the front for your toes to wriggle.
Pointed toe kitten heels are not the only option. An almond toe kitten is just as stylish yet offers more space in the toe box so that toes aren’t squished together.
Wearing a kitten heel with a buckle or lace up fastening will offer additional support and security for the foot and help prevent your feet from being forced forward into the toe box when you walk.
In summary, no matter what shoe you choose, high or low, it is important that it fits property in terms of length and width. Shoes that are too long will mean that your toes will need to act as claws to grip onto the shoe and keep it on your feet. This is bad for feet and for the toes. Shoes that are too tight can lead to corns, blisters with continued wear causing longer term issues such as bunions and hammer toes. Choose a wide fit shoe where possible as the extra width will help allow your foot to expand to the shape it would be if it wasn’t in a shoe, although of course the shoe needs to be smaller than the foot to ensure it stays on. A shoe that is a little too wide is better than one that is a little too narrow. After all, you can put an insole in a wider shoe which will give even more comfort.
As Dr Heather Morgan, a lecturer at the University of Aberdeen, says: “We are not trying to tell anyone that they should or shouldn’t wear high heels but we hope this review will inform wearers to help them weigh up the health risks with social benefits.”
Written by Katie Owen – Wide footed founder of Sargasso & Grey.