1. Health

Shoes and Your Aching Feet

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Updated June 25, 2014

Are your feet killing you?

If your feet are a pain in your life-- take a look at the shoes that you are wearing. Do you spend your days wearing high heels on your feet? Do your shoes really fit? When was the last time you had your feet measured before you bought a new pair of shoes? High heel shoes and improperly fitted shoes cause health problems such as bunions, heel pain, and deformed toes, as well as nerve damage. A survey completed in 1993 found that most women are tired of wearing shoes that hurt their feet. The women in the survey paid from $50 to $200 for the shoes that are hurting them.

Your feet are often a good indication of your general health. Swollen ankles can indicate congestive heart failure. Feet that are insensitive to pain and temperature can be a sign of diabetes. Cold feet may be symptomatic of circulatory disease and clubbed toe nails may indicate chronic respiratory disease. The next time your doctor says "take off everything but your socks," be aware that he may be missing some of these signs of disease. Not only does wearing improper shoes hurt your feet, as well as knee problems can also result from wearing such shoes.

According to the American Orthopaedic Foot and Ankle Society, women should wear shoes with a height of no more than two and a quarter inches and that even shoes at these heights should be worn no more than two or three hours each day. Wearing heels frequently for long periods of time can shorten the Achilles tendon over time and causes a loss in the range of motion in your feet. Shortening of the Achilles tendon is responsible for the disproportionate number of American women who suffer from heel pain; up to 75% of the estimated two million people suffering from heel pain are women.

Buying Shoes That Fit

Selecting properly fitting shoes is the first step to eliminating foot pain. Don't pick your shoes because the tag says they are your size--try them on and buy them based on how they fit on your foot. If you haven't had your foot measured in five years or more, you should measure the next time before you buy shoes; feet can change size and shape over the years. And don't measure just one foot--measure both feet. Your feet may be different sizes and you should buy your shoes to fit the larger foot.

Buy your shoes late in the day when your feet may be slightly larger. If your shoes fit properly, there will be 3/8" to 1/2" of space between the end of your longest toe and the tip of your shoe when you are standing up. Don't expect a tight pair of shoes to stretch to fit your foot, if you do--you are asking for foot pain later on. Shoes should have rounded toes that allow your toes room to 'wiggle.' The pointed shoes of the past often left women with toes that overlapped and created extreme pain for women later in life.

Stretching Your Feet

Exercises that help prevent and relieve foot pain include home exercise programs that stretch the Achilles tendon and plantar fascia stretching. Performed regularly, these simple exercises can help reduce the pain in your feet.

The Future of High Heels

The good news for women, according to a 1997 survey by the AOFAS, is that a majority of women are no longer wearing shoes over one inch to work on a daily basis and fewer than 3% of women are wearing shoes with a height of more than 2 and one quarter inches. Twenty percent of women report wearing athletic shoes to work. Fashion magazines typically feature women in stiletto heels, but the truth is the average woman won't be spending much time these days in such uncomfortable and foot deforming shoes. Remember, when it comes to shoes-- "You Are What You Wear."
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