Did we mention that walking too long in high-heeled shoes can result in, besides all of the above, stress fractures, or cracks in the bones of the feet?
Schwartz also suggests that women avoid the thin, stiletto-style heel: “The bigger the heel, if it’s chunky or a wedge, seems to be better because the shoe has a wider base of stability. A skinnier heel and you’re more likely to have ankle spraining.” You can also break your ankle or injure the ligaments on the side of your ankle, among other body parts, when you fall from wobbly high shoes — thus becoming “fashion roadkill,” a la Carrie Bradshaw of “Sex and the City,” who in one episode fell face first while walking the runway in sky-high heels.
Franklin Polun, a podiatrist with offices in Potomac and the District — the name of his Web site is Mydamnfoothurts.com — estimates that at least a quarter of his female patients come in with issues related to high heels. Like Schwartz’s patients, many of them aren’t willing to throw out their Manolo Blahniks (or knock-offs). “A high-heeled shoe is sexier-looking,” he says. “I get that.” So he tries to give them, as he puts it, “an action plan that’s actually doable.”
Polun’s advice includes going with a rubber-soled shoe over leather, because rubber is better able to absorb pressure on nerves in the feet. He also suggests shopping for shoes at the end of the day, when your foot is most swollen, rather than in the morning.
Liebow, too, has a “short list of things you can do to minimize the problems” if you insist on wearing high heels. The list includes buying only shoes with good padding at the balls of the foot and a gradual slope (rather than the 90-degree angle shown in his X-ray), so “the force is more evenly distributed” over the foot.
As for how high you can safely go with heels, Liebow says, “there’s no height that’s good.” But “most women can handle a heel of an inch or two with minimal side effects.”
And the proclivity toward foot problems does depend somewhat on the person. Pletka says her feet rarely hurt in her four-inch heels, and she points out that, though heels have their problems, “Uggs are really bad for your feet: They don’t support your arches.” Liebow agrees that some people have problems wearing such slip-on woolly winter boots, which often have little or no support; ditto for that other summertime favorite, flip-flops.
“Not only that,” Pletka adds, “they’re ugly as sin. So it just goes to show you.”
A spokesman for UGG Australia said the company makes many varieties of boots, for all tastes, and has versions with plenty of support.
Ianzito is a writer based in Washington.