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The Highs And Lows of Heels vs. Flats

by adriano donofrio |

High heeled shoes are more than just a shoe; they’re powerful and beautiful. Often placed in shop windows to lure us in, high heel shoes are adored even by those that do not wear them. It takes a special skill to be able to walk in such a complex shoe. Wearing them elevates an outfit and the wearer to new heights. There are some downfalls to them, though. Hopefully, there will not be any literal downfalls.


Wearing high heels does not feel natural because the body was not designed to wear them. The toes, feet, and ankles are put into awkward positions that can cause pain, serious damage, and also throws the center of gravity forward.


Are your shoes your life, or are they ruining your life? Let’s find out if the look is worth the price tag that comes with it.

If The Shoe Fits 

High heeled shoes are a fashion statement, a personal statement, or a tool used for fulfilling your desires. No matter what the reason is for wearing them, remember that not everyone can strut in stilettos. However, some people seem as if they were born to wear them.


Before taking the first step, make sure that the shoe is properly fitted. They may look sexy, however, heels can be dangerous if you do not know how to walk in them. A lot of us have been shuffling around in our mom’s high heels since we were little.


Wearing a properly fitted shoe will help you navigate the tricky act of walking in them.It is not as easy as some people make it look.


After making sure the shoes fit properly, next, you will need to learn to walk in your new shoes. The golden rule for high heels is if you can not walk in them, they are too tall for you

Elevating Your Style 

Starting off on a positive foot, let’s talk about the pros of wearing a heeled shoe. Though it essentially is just a piece of leather (or other material), a bit of steel in the heel, a high heeled shoe is more than just a shoe. 


The high heeled shoe itself is an icon. The shape is used to represent fun, style, and often a symbol of femininity. What does putting on a pair of heels do for you?


  • Adds inches to your height.
  • Adds length to the leg.
  • Completes the outfit.
  • Makes you feel sexy.
  • Makes you feel powerful.
  • Makes you feel elegant.
  • Builds muscle.
  • Boosts confidence.
  • Size Does Matter

    Choosing the correct heel for you and your lifestyle is of utmost importance. The best way to figure out which is the right shoe is to read through the following descriptions and try them on in a shop. You never really know until you try them on and walk around in them.


    • Kitten Heels- The first heel can be an introduction into high heeled shoes. Less than 2” in height, a kitten heel gives only a slight raise to the body.
    • Pumps- Since a pump (or low heel) is a considered a heel that is under 2 ½ “
    • Medium- Somewhere between a pump and a high heeled shoe is the medium or mid-height heel. There’s, unfortunately, no fancy name for them. They are considered to be easy to walk in, yet still adding a few inches. 
    • Heels- What is labeled as a regular heel is 3” high. A challenge for most people to walk in, yet it is doable. 
    • Stilettos- The holy grail of high heel shoes is the stiletto. This is a serious shoe and can be up to 6” tall!
    • Wedges -The heel that has a special place in the world is the classic wedge. Not just for spring and summer. The wedge gives the wearer a stable step due to the extra support and lack of thin heel. While still giving the overall effect of wearing a heel, but with more comfort and less chance of falling or getting your heel caught somewhere. 
    • Chunky Heels- Stacked heels and chunky heels are great for certain looks or those who want to feel supported by a thicker heel.

    To measure your own foot for the perfect high heel for you, take a look at this handy measuring guide with fail-proof tips.

    Dressing For Success

    While some of us choose to wear high heels to work, for others, it is mandatory. Having high heels as part of a work uniform can be a deciding factor for applying for a certain job or moving on to the next option.


     For those that are not a fan of wearing high heels 40 hours a week, or more, perhaps a different job should be chosen.


    For instance, flight attendants who work for a certain airline must wear a shoe with a separate heel, so no wedges. And the heel has to be between ½”-3”. Then there’s the job of a cocktail server in a casino where some dress codes require a minimum of a 2” heel for work.


    Dress codes have been demanding that their female employees wear a high heel as part of their uniform. However, after employees began to show negative physical side effects from wearing the shoes, they started to speak out against the dress code policies.

    Why We Wear Heels

    We wear heels for the look! When you stand up in a pair of high heels, your entire form changes, not to mention your demeanor. The body itself somehow gets an instant lift in the right places. Are you looking for an instant butt lift? The higher the heel, the more emphasized of a lift you will get.


    Some outfits cry out to be finished off with a high heel, while others revolve around the shoe itself. Long dresses and long pants benefit greatly from a few extra inches of length.


    And, we wear heels for the feel! High heels give the shorter person an upward lift. Heels also lift our mood. Not true for everyone, of course. However, when we look better, we feel better. So, that is why it is important to be true to yourself, especially when it comes to shoes.

    Guide To Surviving High Heels

    The people who walked a straight line without fumbling one the first time they put on a pair of high heels are like a needle in a haystack. So, if you feel intimidated by high heels, just know that you are not alone. 


    Test them out in the privacy of your own home, before going out in public to make sure that the shoe is comfortable, and so are you. This will also help you break your shoes in before wearing them out.


    Thicker heels are easier to walk in. It takes practice, and balance to strut in heels. Choosing a thicker heel, or a wedge could be a good compromise.


    Choosing the right size/cut is a top priority if you intend on wearing the high heels for an entire night. The more narrow the toe of the shoe is, the more your toes will be crunched together. Compromising the look for the feel is a decision you may have to face.


    To each their own style. And we say, wear what you want! Express yourself! Right? Well, there are plenty of times when you might not want to wear heels. Here are a few (suggestions):


    • During pregnancy 
    • After surgery
    • While injured
    • When there’s ice on the ground
    • For outdoor activities that require “off-roading” 

    Taking Care Of The Investment

    As careful as one may be with their beloved shoes, things do happen. Accidents and even just excessive wear on the wrong surfaces can damage the shoe. 


    Having heels professionally cleaned and repaired can get expensive. However, taking care of the investment you’ve made is always wise.

    The Lows

    Pain is beauty? You know as soon as your day is over, and the heels come off that you were looking forward to that moment all day. And, if you can get a foot massage, then you are really winning. 


    High heeled shoes may look good. They may even make us feel good inside. We have to ask, what are the cons of wearing a high heeled shoe? And, are they really worth the pain?


    Ask any Podiatrist, Chiropractor, or Massage Therapist what they think about high heeled shoes. Chances are that they probably have a pamphlet on hand, or a strong opinion to a voice on heels and how they affect the body. They might tell you things like the following.

    Foot Issues 

    Our poor little feet can really take a beating when we wear high heeled shoes. Maybe you won’t notice from wearing them once, or only once in a while. However, daily wear can do some wear and tear on the body, the feet are the first to get it.


    Issues that can surface from one day of wearing high heeled shoes are blisters and calluses from there the material of the shoe rubs against the foot. 


    Though blisters and calluses can come from any type of shoe that doesn’t fit properly, they are quite common with heels because they are often worn without socks and the foot naturally tends to move around in the shoe. Also, the unnatural position in which the foot is in while wearing heels can create blisters and irritations.


    Once the foot has painful spots on the pressure points of the foot, it makes it that much more difficult to wear any shoe comfortably until the irritation heals. High heels can, over time, alter the bone structure in the foot causing pain and even the need for surgery.

    Tender Toes

    Going from bare feet to wearing a high heel is a major difference for the tiny toes. With most high heel shoes, the toes get placed in a bent position. 


    While the toes are in a bent position, they have a huge amount of pressure applied to them. That is a pressure that would not normally be placed on them with a pair of flat shoes such as sneakers.


    Due to the shape of most high heels, the toes often get squished together causing pain, and over time, serious issues including deformities like bunions. Arthritis can also form in the toes from prolonged high heel wearing.  


    Not to mention, the ingrown toenails. If you have ever had one, you may have just cringed a little bit at the thought of that oddly serious pain. How can such a small thing be so painful? It is insane. Unfortunately, when the toes are crammed into a pointy shoe, with the pressure coming down on them, the nail gets forced into the toe.

    Plantar Fasciitis

    Put simply: Plantar Fasciitis is an inflammation of the tissue on the bottom of the foot. Fascia is connective tissue. The Plantar Fascia connects the heel to the toes. This inflammation is painful even when there is no weight on foot. 


    In theory, wearing a high heeled shoe might actually help relieve the pain of Plantar Fasciitis. However, the opposite occurs, and more force is put on the heel. So, wearing high heels to relieve Plantar Fasciitis is a myth. The fact is that wearing heels creates the issue, not relieves it.


    Sufferers complain of the worst pain being when they first wake up in the morning. Though it may be the worst in the morning, Plantar Fasciitis pain can last all throughout the day.


    To treat the pain and inflammation, you can try a wide variety of treatments before deciding to get surgery. Treatments can be massage and stretching, or RICE (Rest Ice Compression Elevation). You might get results from a natural anti-inflammatory such as fresh turmeric and leafy green vegetables such as kale.

    Ankles

    Can we just stop for a minute to appreciate the real heroes of this story, the ankles? The ankles play a huge role in balance, standing, and walking. When we add the pressure of walking in heels, we are asking a lot of a relatively small joint.


    Even for the most skilled high heel walker, ankles have no mercy. Elevating yourself several inches on an inclined angle can force the ankle to roll if you take one wrong step. High heel wearers have sprained, strained, and even broken their ankle from high heels.


    Physical therapy and exercise can help strengthen the ankle to make wearing high heels a safer activity. Movements similar to those of a ballet dancer can help to strengthen the muscles necessary for safe, high heel wearing.

    Knees 

    Joint pains are a big part of wearing high heels, and the knee joint plays an especially large part in staying upright in heels. When the body is in a pair of heels, the center of gravity is pushed forward. Almost like you are going to fall forward, but you don’t.


    The most important joint in the front of the body that keeps us from falling forward is the knee. Shooting pain in the knee only gets worse as the body ages. This is why, at a certain age, high heel lovers tend to put the stilettos back on the shelf and opt for a more sensible shoe. 


    Women are at special risk for developing osteoarthritis. This is caused by excessive wear and tear over the years, and it can be directly related to wearing high heels. Osteoarthritis can not be cured. It can, however, be treated.

    Hips 

    Our bodies work as one large machine. All of our parts are connected and work together. The hips are a major hub of activity. There are big responsibilities placed on the hips. 


    Since women wear high heels a lot, and the woman’s body is designed for magical things to happen at the hips, we tend to experience hip issues more than men even if that man wears heels as much as the woman. 


    The muscles of the hip are responsible for moving the legs, as well as holding up the torso. One positive thing to be said about the correlation of high heeled shoes to the hips is that wearing heels gives the hips a proper workout.


    After wearing heels, or even during, you may snag a boost of confidence about your hips that you did not have before. And, the hips don’t lie. So, wear heels!

    Back Problems 

    If you have ever worn a pair of high heels for any amount of time, you can probably attest to the strain it puts on your back, especially the lower back. Immediately your center of gravity shifts forward, and the body systems spring into action to keep you from falling over (hopefully!)


    Why does such a luxurious accessory cause so much pain? Well, the human body was not designed to wear high heels. Otherwise, we would have been born with a more downward pointed foot, instead of flat and flexible. 


    Once you flex the foot in a downward position and add the weight of your body to it, the entire body is thrown out of alignment. The body is forced to compensate for the misalignments. It compensates by tightening muscles to try to keep the body upright. The signs of muscle tightening will surface immediately in the form of soreness. 


    What we are not able to see immediately are things that happen over time, such as disk issues in the spine and curvatures like Hyperlordosis. 


    You can lower your risks of back problems by using good body posture while wearing heels, taking a break from them, strengthening your core muscles, and stretching. If you typically wear a stiletto or very high heels, you can also try wearing a shorter heel.

    Falls 

    At one time or another, most of us have probably fallen, or at least come close to it while wearing high heels. Yes, even those that can run a mile in a pair of stilettos are not perfect. Falling is scary and super embarrassing. More than just a bruised ego, a fall in high heels can be very painful.


    Broken bones, strain muscles, and a bump on the head from the smallest fall can happen when you elevate the body inches off of the ground, and there is a disconnect of the body from the shoe. 


    Walking on solid ground through the office is one thing. But, what about when you come into unplanned circumstances while wearing high heels. Walking through gravel, dirt, or even grass is not the same as flat surfaces. 


    The danger of wearing heels in the wintertime is more than just getting frostbite on your toes. Hitting black ice or a patch of icy pavement while wearing heels is a scary thought. It’s best to throw on some boots and pack your heels in your bag than to risk an icy fall. When you get to your destination, you can make the shoe swap. Smart and safe!

    Muscle Memory 

    The muscles do not get enough respect. They are incredibly intelligent and have a great memory. Too good, sometimes. 


    The muscle remembers when you wore those high heels. You know the ones. The calf muscles (Gastrocnemius and Soleus) have fibers like the strands of your hair, and as they spend hours in a shortened position, they will feel tight and sore as they start to lose length. 


    Even the tendons have a good memory. Tendons attach muscle to bone. So, when the calf muscles are getting shorter and tighter, that pulls on the tendon that attaches them to the ankle, which can then cause tendonitis in the Achilles. 


    You can alleviate and possibly prevent some of these issues by stretching and working the tight muscles. You can perform a self-massage or schedule yourself a massage and have a professional help you out.

    Treat Your Feet

    If you are going to indulge in high heel fashion, at least give your feet a break, and treat them right. 


    Moisturizing is a great way to give your feet a bit of love at the end of the day. Depending on how quickly your skin absorbs the moisture, using a moisturizer on the bottoms of your feet is recommended to do at night. Otherwise, your feet may slide around in your high heels throughout the day if you moisturize in the morning.

    Go All In

    You deserve it! Just go all in and treat yourself to some much-needed pampering. While you are taking care of your feet and saying thank you for putting up with your high heel shoe habits, why not show some extra love and attention to your face?


    Piperberry has an amazing line of face care products that you will just love! 


    Starting with their cleanser, the Kale Protein Cleanser is made with kale, carrot, cucumber, and aloe vera. It helps with things like scarring and inflammation as it gently cleans. It contains no harmful ingredients like silicone, phthalates, fragrances, or dyes. 


    Next up is Piperberry’s Superfruits Mask. This mask boosts collagen making your skin feel softer and appear firmer and brighter!


    And for a big finish, the Adaptogen Superfruits Moisturizer. This moisturizer fights free radicals, as it battles anti-aging. Reduces redness and hydrates the skin. Created for the face, yet it can be used anywhere, such as the tired feet. 

    Stretch It Out

    High heels shoe addicts know the pain wearing them can cause. Not only are the feet themselves sore after a long day of being crammed into a pointy shoe, but the rest of the body is also feeling it, too. 


    If you are wearing shoes all day, try to give yourself a midday break for a few minutes. Maybe during your lunch break. Take your shoes off, and stretch your toes, roll your ankles, and allow the feet to breathe. 


    Once the shoes come off at the end of the day, you can give your body a more in-depth stretching. Pay attention to the feet, ankles, calves, hamstrings, glutes, and low back. Honestly, just give your entire body some love. Stretching relieves tension and feels amazing. Afterward, you will feel relaxed and refreshed. 


    If you are looking to take a break from wearing heels, some options are coming up!

    Non-Heels

      • Flats -Though they are not necessarily a high heeled shoe, flats can be your best friend. They are dressy enough, yet they can be used for casual wear, as well. If it is the pointy-toed shape of the high heel that you are after, flats come in all shapes and sizes!
  • Boots- Weather permitting, boots can boost your outfit above your expectations. Hot summer days are not the most ideal for wearing boots, yet some people don’t seem to mind. A tall boot can have a similar effect that a high heel has as in the fact they make the leg look longer, and the wearer looks taller.
    • Sneakers- Worn for straight-up comfort, sneakers are often the ultimate friend to the foot. They do not have to be boring classic styles, though. A sneaker is out there for just about every outfit imaginable. The cushioned sole of a sneaker will be a welcomed break for feet that are used to wearing heels.

    Shoe Inserts

    Whether they be something from the doctor or just a mega cushioned gel shoe inserts off of the shelf at the store, you will notice an immediate difference with shoe inserts.


    For some, the more cushion, the better. Others go for less cushion and more stability. Everyone is different, which is why they sell inserts in a wide variety of features. If you prefer to wear sleeker shoes, a thicker cushion may not fit in the shoe once your foot gets in there with it.


    Measuring your foot, the shoe, and the insert are important to ensure a comfortable fit. It is all about comfort, isn't it? Read the instructions on the package. You may need to trim the inserts with a pair of sharp scissors so that it fits. Inserts are often sold in a universal size and need to be cut to fit.


    A Podiatrist or Chiropractor can take special measurements and order you a custom-fitted shoe insert or special shoe to help alleviate pain and correct issues from wearing high heels.

    In Conclusion

    High heel shoes are lovely. Wearing high heels can come with a hefty price tag for some. However, not everyone suffers from wearing high heels. And, most of the issues are the result of prolonged heel wearing. Often the wrong s

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