Are your shoes damaging your health?


There's nothing like a brand new pair of shoes to make you feel good. While most women love to buy shoes, you could be damaging your health by choosing the wrong style.

Woman wearing high heels
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Our feet are home to a quarter of all the bones in our body and if our feet aren't happy it can have a big impact on the rest of the body.

It's not just high heels that can cause problems. This season's popular ballet pumps could also be causing you long-term damage as consultant podiatrist Dr Tariq Khan explains: "The pressures generated on the foot from wearing very high or very low shoes can lead to all sorts of deformities and problems, like heel pain, hammer toes (when one toe bends downward) or claw foot (when a toe bends downward and another upward).

"The problem then ricochets quickly up the kinetic chain of the body to the knee, affecting the gait cycle when you walk, the way that the hip moves, the position of the pelvis and the direction of the spine."

So what should you be wearing? According to the experts, the ideal, every day shoe should give your toes plenty of room, have a strap or lace-up to prevent your foot from slipping when you walk and a cushioned sole. A slight heel of about 3/4in to 1.5in (2cm to 4cm) is best.

Flat 'ballet' shoes
They may be trendy right now, but pancake-flat ballet shoes can strain the feet, causing inflammation of the arch tendon, as well as bunions, corns and calluses. If you like to wear flats, look for ones that are sturdy in construction, have a thick sole and a slight heel.

Chunky wedges
Your feet will be happy in wedges that are around 1.5in (4cm) tall but any higher and you risk altering the walking cycle, which transfers excessive weight forward onto the ball of the foot, leading to pain, inflammation and corns or calluses.

As a general rule, wedges are preferable to stilettos heels as they provide more stability and a more even weight distribution, and so are less likely to result in ankle sprains.

Health experts have been warning women of the dangers of wearing stiletto shoes for many years. Walking in heels over two inches puts excessive pressure onto the balls of the feet, leading to shortening of the tendoachilles. This causes the calf muscle to shrink and lose elasticity.

"Stiletto soles are generally thin so callus formation on the ball of the foot also leads to inflammation, and because the heels are delicate and narrow, that leads to instability of the ankle joint and there is a high probability of ankle and ligament damage," says Dr Khan.

If you must wear heels, choose ones that are thicker and are no higher than 1.5inches and are rounded on the toe.

If you're wearing the wrong sort of shoes, your foot will actually mould to that shape. Having a good fitting shoe in the first place will help prevent foot problems, but it can also help to wear different styles (following the advice above), and swapping every few days to give your feet a rest.

Relief for feet
If your feet are aching after a long day at work, try using insoles, such as Carnation Advanced Pressure Relief Insoles, in your shoes. Designed to reduce shock, pressure, fatigue and aches and pains in the feet and back, they also have anti-fungal protection and antibacterial odour control. Available from independent pharmacies at £6.49.

To find a state registered chiropodist, contact the Society of Chiropodists and Podiatrists visit