If you grew up in Louisiana, you more than likely are familiar with the phrase- Laissez les bons temps rouler- let the good times roll. We love parties, family get togethers, and just about any viable reason to pass a good time! Having gone to a few parties recently, I have noticed several party goers in fancy dresses dancing the night away to a great band in their bare feet…their perfect pair of heels for their outfit have been torture and they gave into the music and tossed the shoes aside! Let’s face it- most high heels are uncomfortable and over time can cause significant damage to your feet and your ankles.

Wearing heels causes your heel to be elevated leading your body to naturally shift forward which puts added pressure on the ball of your foot. The higher the heel means a greater tendency to shift more of your body weight forward, creating even more pressure on the ball of the foot and often causing you to hyperextend backwards to counterbalance the weight that has been shifted forward. This counter balance act not only affects your feet and ankles, but also can cause knee, hip and back pain.

Common foot and ankle problems resulting from high heels

  • Hammer Toes, Bunions, Corns and Ingrown Toenails
    Over time, wearing high heels with a narrow toe box can cause the foot to take the shape of the shoe, causing hammer toes, corns, bunions and ingrown toenails. High-heeled shoes place tremendous pressure on the fat pad under the ball of the foot, forefoot. The higher the heel the more pressure on the ball of the foot and a higher likelihood for injury.
  • Ankle Sprains and Tendinitis
    Repeatedly wearing high heels can cause all sorts of painful problems. Straining your ankles and other tendons surrounding the foot can lead to tendonitis. When your foot is elevated and the weight goes forward, a lot of tension gets taken off the Achilles tendon and it shortens over time.

    Women who are a bit older and have worn heels consistently, often complain that flat shoes are uncomfortable. This results from the the tendons tightening from continuous wear of high heels their whole lives and it becomes uncomfortable when they’re stretched to their original length. Extra weight and pressure on the front of the foot can even cause a stress fracture and heels are more likely to exacerbate clumsiness that can lead to imbalance and twisting or straining the ankle.

  • Morton’s Neuroma
    High-heeled shoes have been linked to the development of Morton’s neuroma due to the weight shifted forward to the ball of the foot from the elevation of the heel. Morton’s neuroma is a painful condition that affects the ball of your foot, most commonly the area between your third and fourth toes. Morton’s neuroma may feel as if you are standing on a pebble in your shoe. This can cause a sharp, burning pain in the ball of your foot. Your toes also may sting, burn or feel numb.

So, what do you do? Do you forgo the perfect shoes for your perfect outfit because they sport a high heel? Not necessarily… my wife and many of my patients would be the first to tell me that they were not willing to give up their favorite shoes because they have a heel. I offer a compromise, choose better shoes for day to day wear, so you can bring out the high heels for special occasions. I do have a few suggestions when choosing your footwear that can help preventing unnecessary pain and strain:

  • Choose a shoe with a wide toe box and two-inch or lower heel. If higher heels are preferred, shoes with a platform under the toe box decrease the overall stress on the foot.
  • Stretch your feet and calves in the evening. At the end of the day our muscles and tendons need a bit of relief- don’t forget your toes and ankles- they bare the brunt of your weight all day!
  • Get rid of worn out shoes or shoes that hurt your feet. Worn out shoes do not support your feet properly and if shoes hurt your feet today, they could have a negative impact in the long run.

If foot and ankle pain persist, it may be time to consult with an orthopedic foot and ankle surgeon. Don’t let your high heels get in the way of your good times… moderation and saving the heels for a special night should keep you dancing and your feet and ankles strong and healthy.

J. Marshall Haynie, MD is and orthopedic surgeon specializing in disorders of the foot and ankle/lower extremity. Dr. Haynie’s clinic has two locations in Shreveport and Bossier City. To schedule an evaluation with Dr. Haynie, please call his clinic, Orthopedic Specialists of Louisiana: 866.759.9679.