Ouch! The painful truth about our killer heels…
07:39 GMT, 23 July 2012
VIctoria Beckham and Cheryl Cole wouldn’t
be seen dead without their skyscraper heels. And now it seems they’ve
set a trend for British women, as we wear the highest heels in Europe.
But are we seriously damaging our health Jill Foster meets three
There's the rub: Rachel Menzies in her high heels
My toes bleed, but I won’t wear flats
Rachel Menzies, 27, is a special projects manager for a music company and lives in Clapham, South London. She says:
'There have been many times I’ve looked down at my feet and they’ve been cut to ribbons. I remember wearing one pair of white heels on a night out and suddenly my feet were covered in blood — not a good look.
It’s ridiculous the lengths women go to look good, but if I’m not wearing high heels I don’t feel smart.
I’m constantly racing from one meeting to another and I don’t have time to slip off my heels, so I can be in them from an 8am breakfast meeting until 2am if I’m entertaining clients.
It can be horribly painful, but I refuse to wear flats — I simply don’t feel right in them. I’ve lost count of the number of blisters I’ve had. In my handbag I carry an emergency pack of plasters, some gel inserts to stop rubbing and special ointment that covers up the blister and protects the skin. But still, I buy shoes that kill me even though I know I shouldn’t.
I have about 35 pairs, the higher the better. I’m not one for mid-height heels and always try to get 4in or so. My favourite brand is Kurt Geiger and I’ll spend around 70 on each pair, but I’ll go up to 150 if I really like them. I go for court shoes mainly. I hold myself differently when I’m wearing them – my shoulders back and walking tall. When I’m in an important meeting, that’s crucial.
I do worry about the long-term damage I could be causing. My mum suffers from bunions and I’m starting to get them, but I’m hoping that in ten or 15 years I won’t be working so hard so it will be OK.’
Louise Rowson suffered so much pain in her heels that she now avoids wearing them whenever possible
I have to use splints to stop the pain
Louise Rowson (right), 44, is a receptionist in Harrogate. She’s married to Ian, 45, a company director and they have two children, Charlotte, 22, and William, 19. She says:
‘I’ve always loved high heels. I’m only 5ft 1in and they give me height, but they make you look more feminine and give a lovely curve to your leg, too.
I’ve been wearing heels since I was 15 and buy a pair every three months or so. The most money I’ve spent was about 90 in a sale. But I’m not one for keeping shoes; once they need re-heeling, I tend to throw them out.
In my previous job as a nursery nurse it was impractical to wear heels throughout the day, but I’d squish my feet into my favourite high heels most evenings. I could spend seven hours a night in them, going out and dancing, and never considered that I may be damaging my feet.
But around 18 months ago, I started feeling a searing pain whenever I put weight on the ball of my left foot, by the base of the big toe. I had no idea what it could be but a friend who suffered from bunions said it sounded like I had them, too.
She told me to test it out by pulling my toe back into its original position to see if it hurt. It did. So much so that I couldn’t hold that position for very long as it was too painful.
Another friend told me about the Neo G splint, which is a hard plastic splint you wear in bed to encourage the toes to go back to their original position. I tried it, but it hurt and made no difference at all for the first two or three weeks.
But then I started to notice that my toe seemed to look more normal and was less painful. I stuck with the splint for four months and the pain eased.
Now it’s completely back to normal and I can wear whatever shoes I like — although I’m going to avoid high heels as much as I can now.
Extreme footwear: Sue's love of high heels has caused her to require surgery
After years in heels I now need surgery
Sue Spencer (right), 56, is a business coach from Allestree, Derbyshire. Divorced, she has two grown-up daughters, Charlotte and Caroline. She says:
‘After years of cramming my feet into shoes far too narrow for me and incredibly high, I’ve developed arthritis in the big toe joint on my right foot.
At first I thought it was simply a bunion. They run in my family and I noticed one starting in my teens but I ignored it. Over the years, it got bigger and more painful — it throbs throughout the night and is very sore.
It got so bad that last year I went to the GP and I was referred to the local hospital. The X-rays showed that it’s arthritis and there’s nothing left of the joint — so no wonder I’m in so much pain. Bone is rubbing against bone. I’m going to have surgery to correct it this month.
It’s radical and will mean that I won’t be able to put weight on that foot for around six weeks, but it’s got to the point where sometimes I can’t even walk down the street in shoes other than MBT trainers.
My problems all spring from the fact I have wide feet. The shoes on offer for wider feet in the UK are just awful —we are way behind the rest of the world when it comes to wider fittings.
Why is it that I can get shoes that fit perfectly my wide size 6 feet in France, Germany and even Australia, but I really struggle to get them here I end up in stores that cater for larger ladies. But even then, because I’ve got slim legs, a lot of the shoes with straps are too big for me around the ankle.
Now I tend to wear trainers, but they’re not the most stylish shoes and it means I’m constantly wearing trousers. I’d love to wear a beautiful elegant court shoe with even a medium high heel — but until I’ve had the surgery and unless I can find wide-fitting shoes, those days are over.’
HOW TO HEAL YOUR FEET
Find a heel that fits you properly. If your shoes are too big, your foot will slide forward and put more pressure on your toes; if they’re too small, they will rub. Shoes should feel snug, but not slip on your foot.
Buy a heel insole. These soft gel-filled cushions sit in your heels at pressure points and provide shock absorption to protect your ankles and bones. Try heel insoles, 5, marksand spencer.com.
Go for chunkier heels. The higher and slimmer the heel, the more painful your shoes will be. Thicker heels create more stability, and a wider heel will distribute your weight allowing better balance and less pressure.
Massage a rich cream into your feet at the end of the day, with upward strokes (Foot repair Moisturiser, 13.50, uk.lizearle.com)
DON’T wear the same high heels all the time. Rotating between heels and flats gives your foot a break from the pressure.