Every woman knows the feeling of finding a pair of shoes that go perfectly with that one special outfit. Unfortunately, those shoes aren’t always the most sensible.
High heels can lead to plantar fasciitis over time. This painful and debilitating disorder can negatively affect your daily routine, but a podiatrist can help you get relief.
How High Heels and Plantar Fasciitis Are Connected
The relation between high heels and conditions like plantar fasciitis is straightforward—high heels cause an uneven distribution of weight and force the arch of your foot into an unnatural position. This in turn impacts the way you walk and puts a strain on your arch. After wearing your favorite heels, you may experience tearing and inflammation—the warning signs of plantar fasciitis.
While high heels don’t support the arch of the foot, they also fail to support the heel. A lack of cushioning means that the pad of your heel is being repeatedly pressed against a hard and unsteady shoe. Even worse, plantar fasciitis doesn’t always go away if you quit wearing high heels—once the damage is done, a simple shoe switch might not be enough to resolve it.
In more scientific terms, the Achilles tendon is a band of tissue that stretches from the back of your heel and reaches all the way to your calf. This tendon changes in length, stretching and shortening with every foot movement. When you wear high heels, your foot responds the same way as when you stand on your toes, with your heel rising closer to the calf. This shortens the Achilles tendon.
So what’s the problem if the foot is meant to lengthen and shorten? Shortening your Achilles tendon too much pulls on another portion of the foot—the plantar fascia. Over time, the stress results in plantar fasciitis.
Plantar Fasciitis Symptoms and Who’s At Risk
If you have plantar fasciitis, you will experience pain and inflammation. A sharp and stabbing pain is the main symptom of this debilitating condition. You might notice it the most in the morning when you first wake up, or when you move around after an extended time sitting or standing in the same place. In some instances, the pain is also experienced after exercise or other strenuous activities.
Anyone who regularly wears high heels is at risk, but you can also be at risk if you are between 40-60 years of age and if you are overweight.
How to Avoid Plantar Fasciitis
If you love to wear high heels but are concerned about issues such as plantar fasciitis, there are things you can do to still enjoy wearing the shoes you love without causing injury.
- Don’t change from wearing mostly heels to exclusively wearing flats. If your feet are accustomed to high heels, quitting them completely can actually cause damage. Since very high heels especially can cause your Achilles tendon to atrophy, it is important to lower your heel height gradually.
- Don’t avoid high heels completely. You can still wear feminine shoes featuring a small heel. These can actually be better than ballet flats or other completely flat shoes, as they tend to offer more support. Look for 1-2 inch heels for the perfect compromise.
- Ensure your shoes fit properly. Women often buy heels that are too small, either due to improper measurements or a false belief that petite shoes are more attractive. Heels require a proper fit.
- Look for thicker heels or those with a gradual slope. These are safer, more comfortable, and will offer the best support out of all the heeled shoe types available.
- Stretch your heels regularly to avoid plantar fasciitis. Regular stretches and relaxing your feet can help loosen any pressure and prevent injury.
Are You Looking for a Plantar Fasciitis Specialist in Austin, TX?
If you are looking for plantar fasciitis care, you should reach out to an experienced podiatrist. Austin Foot and Ankle Specialists can help. Our office provides a wide variety of advanced, effective treatment options for all kinds of painful conditions. Ready to schedule an appointment? Contact us online or call our Austin office at 512.328.8900.