If the Shoe Fits...
“The human foot is a masterpiece of engineering and a work of art.” –Leonardo da Vinci
Women know that fashion comes at a price. But most dismiss the high-cost of squeezing their toes into high-heels or ill-fitting shoes until it’s too late.
Podiatrists and orthopedic surgeons have watched helplessly for years as the intricate composition of a woman’s foot is ignored in favor of female vanity.
Just ask Colorado Springs resident Deb DeYoung who adores high-style pumps and platforms, but recently underwent foot surgery due to painful tendon and ligaments, bunion and bone spurs. Now on the mend, she’s anxious to return to fashionable footwear.
“I’ve worn heels for years, but it just got too painful to wear regular shoes,” she says as she tried on a pair of Uggs and designer low-heeled boots at Yarid’s at The Broadmoor. “I hope I’ll be able to wear the boots before winter’s over – maybe next spring.”
DeYoung is not alone.
Pain has caused even well known fashionistas and runway models to shelve their 5-inch Christian Laboutins for saner gladiators and flats.
“When Patients Insist on Wearing High Heels,” PodiatryToday.com author, Jenny Sanders DPM lists numerous contributors to foot and ankle problems as a result of wearing high heels: bunions, hammertoes, metatarsalgia, corns, calluses, neuromas, ankle sprains and ingrown toenails.
All directly caused by or made worse by tight fitting, high heeled shoes, she notes.
She cautions women not to rely strictly on the shoe size they wore as a teenager.
Women are often shocked to learn that when correctly measured (heel-to-ball of the foot measurement for proper arch support), “they are one to two sizes longer than they thought,” she explains.
High heels with a short heel-to-ball fit usually mean the shoe’s arch is too short. That, in turn, produces extra stress on the ball of the foot resulting in painful metatarsalgia. If heel-to-ball length is too long, the shoe is too big and the foot will slide forward, forcing toes downward into the toe box. When that happens, the toes grip in an attempt to stop the slide, causing neuroma and bunion formation from forefoot compression, the doctor says.
Pikes Peak region professional women and soccer moms tend to choose wisely.
Ken Thompson, Dillard’s Chapel Hills shoe department manager, says his wide-ranging clientele demands both looks and comfort. Until 10 years ago most of his female customers purchased those high heels with pointy toes.
“Today we can offer better options,” he points out, adding that foot-supporting platforms and flats are popular alternatives. The store has also incorporated more comfort features into its pumps.
Only women age 30 and younger still buy 4-, 5- or 6-inch booties and heels.
“Once a woman has children her body shape, weight and feet may change,” he explains.
Flats, as the Wall Street Journal pointed out last fall, have become an attractive alternative.
But many women resist switching.
Marketing representative Celeste Blakely of Land Title Guaranty Co. likes wearing heels with business attire “at least four days a week.” So far she’s free of pain and enjoys adding a few inches to her five-foot-two-inch height.
“I just feel more professional and dressed in heels,” she says, adding that she keeps flats in her car.
The desire for leg-lengthening pumps and inevitable male attention remains a powerful motivator however.
Yarid’s general manager Cathy Reed says her sophisticated customers won’t settle for less.
“They’ll pay for full arch support and comfort features in brands such as Pas de Rouge, Flexx or even Ferragamos,” she says.
Whether to impress male admirers, bosses or girlfriends, the pump appears here to stay.
One of Reed’s customers – an 80-year-old woman with a passion for shoes – recently came into the store with her son. She fell in love with a pair of red 3-inch pumps.
“Mother,” he admonished, “remember what the doctor told you. It’s not safe for you to wear those.”
“Son, don’t worry,” she replied. “I’ll only wear them in the evening when I drink my martinis.”