October 3, 2009

Choosing Sneakers Over Heels, Better In The Long Run

Bad posture? Sore ankles? Research shows choosing tennis shoes over high heels could lead to a future of happy feet.

Wearing high heels can be fashionable and make you feel sexier, but at what price?

High heels have been known to cause joint pain in the ball of your foot, a more painful Achilles tendon, even knee osteoarthritis.

A high heel shoe puts your foot in a plantarflexed position, placing an increased amount of pressure on your forefoot. This causes you to adjust the rest of your body to maintain your balance. The lower part of your body leans forward and to compensate for that, the upper part of your body must lean back to keep you balanced. This is not your body's normal standing position.

Walking in high heel shoes is like walking on a balance beam. It takes a lot of balance and just like teetering on a beam, there is not any support in a high heel shoe to catch you if you fall. High heel shoes cause your foot and ankle to move in a supinated (turned outward) position. This position puts you at risk for losing your balance and spraining your ankles.

Alyssa B. Dufour, a researcher on the Framingham Study, told Reuters Health, "Obviously women aren't going to give up their favorite high heels, but I think it's important to pay attention to the shoes that you're buying and make sure they fit."

3,378 men and women participated in the study, their average age being 66. Dufour and her team found that one in every four participants said they had foot pain on most days.

They asked people what type of shoe they wore most during five age categories, beginning in their 20s. They classified shoes into "good" (athletic shoes), "average" (rubber-soled shoes), and "poor" (heels, sandals or slippers).

There was no relationship between footwear and foot pain in the 2 percent of men  who reported wearing "poor" shoes. But for women, wearing "good shoes" reduced the likelihood of having pain in the "hindfoot" (heel, ankle and lower Achilles tendon) by two-thirds.

Women are more likely to have likely to have pain their feet, Dufour notes in Arthritis Care & Research, and their choice of footwear could be a factor.

You should always make sure the shoes you buy fit comfortably and aren't too snug. Poor fitting shoes can cause a number of disabling foot problems such as bunions, corns, calluses, and hammertoes. There are many ways to make sure your shoes fit properly such as:

* Comfort should rule over fashion in shoe selection.

* Judge shoes by how they fit, not by the size on the box.

* Fit shoes at the end of the day when your feet are their longest.

* Once you put the shoe on, wiggle your toes to make sure they can move freely.

Think of your feet as tires. If your car tires are out of alignment, you can only drive so many miles before you are at the risk of blowing a tire. The same applies for your feet. It is recommended that you only wear high heels for special occasions and even then only a heel height of 1 1/2 inches. Your feet and your body will thank you.


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