FOR EVERY MALE patient
referred to orthopaedic surgeon Dr. Roger Haene, he
sees 19 women. Why such a
difference? Women suffer
more foot problems, including hammertoes, bunions,
corns, nerve pain and plantar plate tears, because they
wear high heels.
“In a high-heeled shoe,
the foot is in a vertical position with all of the force
shifted forward. The midfoot, which usually
does a good job to dissipate force when walking barefoot, becomes locked in place. That
shift concentrates the force on five little forefoot bones that have to withstand pressure
equal to about four to four and a half times
body weight,” says Haene, a Costco member,
chief of orthopaedic surgery at the Dr. Everett
Chalmers Regional Hospital in Fredericton,
New Brunswick, and assistant professor with
Dalhousie Medicine New Brunswick and
Memorial University of Newfoundland.
At the Achilles Foot Clinic in Calgary,
co-founder, podiatrist and foot surgeon Dr.
Maegen Purych also treats women with foot
injuries due to wearing high heels too often.
She too sees a lot of hammertoes, inflamed
and damaged toe-joint capsules and plantar
plate tears. Hammertoe is a common condition in which the toe buckles in an upside-down V-shape, causing pain, pressure, corns
“A joint capsule is the grape-skin-like cov-
High heels can hurt
more than your feet
FOR YOUR HEALTH
ering surrounding each joint. In our feet, we
walk on the bottom of those capsules. Too
much pressure from walking in high heels can
cause joint capsule pain and inflammation,
and they can rupture,” says Purych.
The plantar fascia, a tough band of tissue
Five steps to reduce foot problems
DO YOU STILL want to rock
high heels from time to
time? Here are some tips
from our experts to help
“Platform shoes are better
than regular high heels since
there is a smaller height difference between the heel
of your foot and your toes,”
says Dr. Maegen Purych.
Alternate heel heights.
“Wearing different heel
heights allows your feet and
tendons not to get stuck in
a rut. Besides, any justi;-
cation to buy a variety of
shoes is never a bad thing!”
says Dr. Todd Sinett.
Massage your feet.
“I recommend massaging
feet with a tennis ball. Put
the ball on the ground and
roll your foot around back
and forth over the ball—
under the arch, the heel
and ball of your foot. It feels
good and helps maintain
;exibility,” says Purych.
Use inserts and
orthotics. “Gel pad inserts
that go under the ball of
the foot can help disperse
pressure,” says Dr. Roger
Shopping tip. “Trace
the outline of your foot on
a piece of paper and keep
it in your purse. When shopping, put the paper on the
ground and put the shoe
on top. If the shoe is narrower than your foot, don’t
buy it,” says Haene.—JL
that connects the toes to the heel bone, can
shorten from wearing high heels, causing stabbing heel pain, inflammation known as plantar fasciitis or tears.
For their patients, both Haene and
Purych examine the causes of foot pain and
recommend the least invasive approaches
first. Joint capsule issues and plantar plate
tears can be treated with ultrasound and custom orthotics that offload body weight away
from the areas that need time to heal. For
bunions and hammertoes, surgery may help,
but the necessity is based on symptoms, not
on how feet look. Some people with significant foot deformities have no pain and can
happily wear their choice of sensible shoes.
Surgery can involve shortening bones
and straightening or fusing toes so they do
not bend, or fixing them with implants
so they can still move slightly. But foot
surgery is tricky, and recovery can
require using crutches for up to six
weeks. There is no guarantee of restoring movement or making it possible
to fit into high heels again.
Feet are highly specialized, consisting of 26 bones, 33 joints and over
And for those who think that toe surgery
means returning to wearing high heels,
beware: “If you stiffen a toe with surgery and
continue to wear high heels, the joints cannot
THE COS TCO CONNECTION
Costco members will find a variety of casual,
dress and active footwear at their local
Costco and on Costco.ca.