How To Prevent Pain In The Feet This Holiday Season
Feet are made for walking, running, hiking, and evening dancing; something that many of us will be doing along of in the run up to Christmas and the New Year! But in the last few centuries, function and fashion have clashed. Shoes are so much more often chosen for what they say about the wearer rather than comfort.
For women, it seems fashion has indeed come out victorious over function. Year round, women everywhere painstakingly select tottering high heeled shoes to complete outfits deliberated on for hours. Even if the ‘right’ shoes are not the best fitting, they are often chosen for elegant design features, including having the highest heel.
Shoes like these not only put pressure on feet but ankles, knees and backs and can cause excessive loading in the knee joint which can lead to a person needing surgery. You can be sure of another blog post on that issue, but for now, let us just focus on what you're doing to your feet:
A very common and often very apparent problem linked with high heel wearing. This is a prominent bump in the joint of the big toe, on the inside of the foot. That is part of the metatarsal bone protruding out to the side, due to high pressure on the end of the toe, usually exerted by tight shoes. If these shoes are high heeled, then the foot is also forced forwards and downwards into this narrow space, squeezing the big toe into an unnatural position. If this continues, it is common to find the top toe resting under or over the lesser toes, even while barefoot. If this happens then, the smaller toes themselves are prone to blisters and calluses. The bunion may become painful and inflamed and can also affect walking. Women are especially prone to bunions as female hormones make the tissue softer and more malleable. Fifteen million people in the UK suffer from bunions, with over 85% of these being women over the age of 45. It is thought that some people are genetically predisposed to getting bunions, although high heels and ill-fitting shoes exacerbate the problem.
A claw toe is exactly what it says: the middle and end joints in the toes have contracted, causing the toe to curl downward into a claw shape. Variations of this are 'mallet' toes, where only the last joint in the toe is affected, and 'Hammer' toes, where the first joint is affected. This is often due to the tightening of ligaments over time, because of the cramped positioning of toes in high heeled shoes. When you stand up in high heels, your total weight rests on the balls of your feet. With all that pressure pushing down, it’s easy for the toes to be pushed forward into the tip of the shoe and rest there, somewhat crushed by all the excess pressure. There is also added discomfort at the top part of the toe that often rubs against the inside of the shoe upper, causing a callus.
Metatarsalgia is a general name for a painful foot condition which affects the metatarsal area of the foot. This is the area just before the toes, otherwise known as the ball of the foot. It’s characterised by burning, aching or sharp pains under the ball of the foot. It can be due to a number of causes, but the most common are excessive sports or high heel wearing. In this condition, one or more of the metatarsal heads become inflamed due to excessive pressure over an extended period. Footwear which is too narrow and heels that are very high force the ball of the foot into uncomfortable positions and make it bear an excessive amount of your body weight. Similarly, shoes with no arch support may cause symptoms of Metatarsalgia if worn when standing or walking for very extended periods of time. Anyone can suffer Metatarsalgia; however people aged 50+ are especially prone as the padded cushion under the ball of the foot often thins with age.
This is an irritation of the casing of the nerve in between two metatarsals. The actual nerve is intact, which makes the name ‘neuroma’ slightly misleading as usually, this refers to the irritated itself nerve. Often, people will feel sharp, shooting pains between the toes on weight bearing. This condition is caused by the metatarsal heads squeezing together, putting excess pressure on the nerves in between. This irritates the nerve casing, and it becomes inflamed and enlarged. This swift turning of the foot into an unnatural position causes the metatarsal heads to squeeze together. This condition can happen to any of the nerves in between the metatarsals although people usually find it occurs between the 3rd and 4th toes.
Also of these conditions can be eased by just laying off the high heel wearing, and making sure your feet rest in a correct position within properly fitting shoes.
The healthiest heel height is 25mm. However, this may seem very little for some dedicated followers of fashion out there. The good news is that, if worn in moderation, any heel up to the height of 3 inches will not alter the biomechanical positioning or functioning of your foot too dramatically. However, continuing to wear high heels, especially ones which are also too narrow for your foot will only exacerbate all of these problems. In many cases, if left to continue, all of these conditions can become quite debilitating.
At Feet and Spine, we offer a broad range of wide fitting and comfortable shoes which make no compromises with style. We cater for bunion sufferers, with shoes which have built in hallux cushioning; and we can also provide custom made insoles, bespoke to your needs to ease the effects of Morton's Neuroma and Metatarsalgia and aid healing.
All this amazing modern engineering at your feet; make sure your feet are having just as much fun as you this party season!