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High heels could cause UK 'arthritis crisis'

Do you love your high heels? Are your knees and feet aching? It may be time to say no to heels. High heels may be fashionable, but could be hazardous to your health. According to a poll by The Society of Chiropodists and Podiatrists, out of 2,000 people 36% people did not know much about arthritis and 22% thought arthritis was an unavoidable part of getting older. Professor Anthony Redmond, a podiatrist and arthritis researcher from the society, said: “Although you are more likely to develop arthritis as you get older, it can occur at anytime. At least eight million people in the UK already suffer from this condition, which causes pain and stiffness in joints, and the numbers are rising.

Looking good in high heels does not come without a price. Heels make your legs look longer and attractive no wonder a poll by The Society of Chiropodists and Podiatrists found that a quarter of women wear heels very regularly if not everyday. This may be the reason why millions of women could be at risk of arthritis in their knees. Wearing high heels could most certainly put womens knees at risk of arthritis along with other serious problems such as bad posture and ingrown toenails.

People, who need bunion operations, help with foot pain and removal of corns and calluses is also on the increase reported by podiatrists.

Remember all those times when you have squeezed your feet into tight ill fitting high heels, bending your toes into abnormal positions. As a consequence, you end up with sore, blistered, thick skinned feet which rub against your shoes causing you pain with most likely every step you take. Several hundred tons of pressure is what your feet are put under every day from just walking. This adds up to a whole lot of pain. Changing something as simple as the type of shoe you wear could make all the difference. Basically the higher the heel, the worse it is for you.

Wearing high heels changes the way you walk as your centre of gravity is put on the ball of your foot. High heels also affect body posture by placing more pressure on knee, ankle and foot joints. This can cause strain to the cartilage and lead to the start of osteoarthritis. Osteoarthritis is the most common type of arthritis, it is seen a lot more in women than in men. Wearing high-heeled shoes considerably changes the normal role of the ankle. Due to the compromise of this function, the knee and hip are used instead to maintain steadiness whilst walking, mostly at the knee. Women walking in high heels put a lot more strain between the kneecap and thigh bone as well as in the inner side of the knee joint compared to when they walk in bare feet.

The society has warned, with levels of obesity on the increase and people living longer, together with poor footwear could result in an arthritis crisis. Wearing the right footwear will help to reduce the stress your feet and joints are under through your daily life. Little changes can help decrease the risk of joint damage and injury. Wearing shoes with a heel height of no more than 2-3cm (one inch) is recommended for daily wear. Preferably shoes with a shock absorbent sole as they will help keep shock to the joints to a minimum.

It is vital to be aware of what kind of footwear to use when exercising or taking part in sport. Prof Redmond has said: "Those who wear trainers that are not designed for sporting activity are placing themselves at real risk." It is important that shoes which are specially designed for the sport you play are used as wearing incorrect footwear can increase the possibility of developing arthritis. During some sports, the force going through your joints can be more than eight times your body weight, so we cannot state how important it is to wear the right footwear for your sport.

The poll also showed that while 65% of people have suffered stiffness or pain in their lower body and feet, only half of those tried to find help for the symptoms they experienced. Prof Redmond said: "If you do experience frequent pain in your feet or ankles, don't ignore it, as something can always be done." Early treatment can be essential to achieve the best result for the long-term. If you have arthritis pain in your feet or knees when you walk then get in touch with a podiatrist who can help you choose the right pair of shoes for you.
If you can't give up your high-heels then here are a few tips to minimize their effects:

  • Try to limit how long you wear your high heels by changing to good quality trainers or flats for some of the day.
  • Go for "walking" pumps, which are fashionable and at the same time they provide athletic shoe-like construction, reinforced heels, and wider toe room, helping to put your feet under less strain.
  • If you must wear heels more than 2-3 inches high then only wear them on special occasions.
  • Take your shoes off when you can to give your feet and legs a bit of a break.
  • Buy shoes which have a rubber heel as they will absorb the impact on your knees whilst walking.

Ladies you have to take care of your feet, more than you already thought. It can save you from a lot of unnecessary pain in the future so the next time you are out shopping for a pair of new shoes, just stop and think for a minute. A small change can make a big difference and benefit your health.

So what are the tips to picking healthy summer footwear?

  • Do not be fooled by the cheapest option, always be sure to look for proper materials in your footwear. Do not buy cheap foam material that is too flimsy and lacks a solid form. A good general rule is to try to bend the sole along its length. It should bend only slightly and if it can almost touch the heel to the toe, you are definitely looking at the wrong material.
  • Do not make the most common mistake by going for the flat soled option. Instead try to choose sandals and flip flops with significant support, as well as an indented heel cup to hold the heel in place.
  • Pay careful attention to straps, as well. Consider leather or soft materials to reduce irritation and blisters. Avoid plastic or cotton straps, or any that are too thin and can cut into the skin

In addition, consider overall quality. Keep in mind that you may need to spend as much on a quality pair of sandals or flip flops, as you would on a nice pair of trainers.

Do not Forget!!!

Try to wear your sandals or flip flops in moderation. Avoid wearing them during all-day events, athletic activities and especially during those days working in the garden. These activities are best performed in trainers.

Also remember that your exposed feet need sunscreen. Otherwise, you could end up with sunburned tootsies which is not only bad for your skin, but is also a disastrous fashion statement, too!

Follow these handy tips and your feet will enjoy the spring and summer months as much as you do.


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