By Lucy Osuizigbo
When it comes to shoes, some women will go through hell for a pair of the London Jimmy Choo brand. The brand became notable in the fashion circles, especially for its high heeled bridals since 1996.
Since wearing high-heeled shoes is an art, women deserve medals for learning to walk in them let alone run! But what effect does wearing high heel have on our bodies?
Most women believe that if they wear high-heeled shoes they will become more attractive, sexier, more cultured, corporate and sophisticated as well as boost their confidence.
These days at social functions, including churches, as every day wear, especially in the corporate world, Nigerian ladies can be seen wearing these ridiculously high-heeled shoes that come as high as 14 to 16 inches.
There are different kinds — the wedge, clogs, ankle strap heels, wedge sandals and the high heel sandals and they come in assorted colours.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that unknown to many, the constant wearing of these shoes presents some very serious health risks as experts have warned that they could constitute harm to the feet, hip, back and even lead to permanent body deformities.
“The negative effects of wearing high heels can be experienced in particular sections of the feet, knees, legs and back.
Dr Onyebuchi Ahoma, a Clinical Psychologist, says that ladies who wear heels put themselves through unnecessary misery and pain.
“Some of them cannot even walk straight on heels because they feel uncomfortable but because they think it is chic and trendy they want to endure and ignore the pains they feel,’’ he said.
Dr Abubakah Muhyi, an Orthopaedic Surgeon with the National Hospital, Abuja, says that high heel shoes have been the leading cause that usually brought female patients to visit orthopaedic doctors.
Muhyi says that the constant wearing of shoes with high heels or narrow toes have led to a high incidence in corrective foot operations.
According to him, this is what happens when women choose fashionable footwear over health, and many of them aren’t even aware that they are causing harm to their health.
“Years of wearing heels can lead to bunions or other infractions of the toe and calf. These signs often surface in middle aged women.
“When a woman is walking on heels, she is basically walking on the balls of her feet. The ball of the foot will experience intense pressure and this pressure more than doubles with every inch in the height of shoe heel.
“Ankle injuries are always a threat and the degree of injuries can extend from sprains to fractures. Calluses, corns and bunions can be formed on feet due to high heels, especially if the shoes are tight or walked on for long periods.
“Metatarsalgia is a condition affecting the ball of the foot, where all the weight is concentrated on when a woman is in heels.
“Hammertoes is a condition where the toes are maintained in downward curled position because of the continual confinement of the feet in the high heels.
“The muscles of the feet become tight and are unable to stretch and straighten when out of the shoes.
“Women may complain of numbness, sharp pain and burn in the toes and ball of the foot when wearing high heeled shoes — all of which are symptoms of `Morton’s Neuroma’ which is the inflammation of the tissue surrounding the nerve between the third and fourth toes,’’ he said.
Dr Babalola Olatunji, a Consultant Orthopaedic and Trauma Surgeon with the National Orthopaedic Hospital, Igbobi (NOHIL), Lagos, says that high heels cause much more pressure on the knees than what the knees are designed for, and could give rise to a condition called osteoarthritis as well as other joint disorders.
Olatunji noted that women who wear high heels frequently have a higher incidence of degenerative joint disease of the knees.
This is because they cause a decrease in the normal rotation of the foot which puts more rotation stress on the knee.
He says that a similar condition could occur with the Achilles tendon where it could retain its shortened state even when a woman is not wearing high heels.
“The calves will tend to retain the contracted and shortened state due to the feet being in high heels. The calf muscles may become difficult or virtually impossible to straighten without medical intervention.
“High heels can cause a change in the way the muscles and tendons work together while walking. Normally, a tendon stretches and shortens, making walking easy on the muscles of the calf.
“However, heels wearing can cause the tendons, especially the Achilles tendon to shorten, leaving the strain on the muscles of the calf to do all the work.
“They can cause foot pain, increase likelihood of sprains and fractures, and make the calves look more rigid and sinewy.
They can also create foot deformities, causing an unsteady gait, shorten the wearer’s stride and can also render the wearer unable to run,’’ he said.
Another Orthopaedic and Trauma Surgeon at NOHIL, Lagos, Dr Akintayo Akindele, is of the opinion that regular wearing of high heel shoes could affect the body posture of a woman.
“The increased weight on the toes caused the body to tilt forward and to compensate, you lean backwards and overarch your back creating a posture that can strain your knees, hips and lower back.
“Because the feet will be in a fixed position, the woman will have to bend her spine in the lower back more to keep her balance.
“Some women may wonder where certain back, shoulder and neck pain may come from. Well, high heels are a prime cause of such pain in the torso,’’ he added.
Akindele says that with each inch added to a heel, greater problems could arise, but there are also ways to wear heels more safely…
So, if you insist on wearing high heels and you are concerned about muscle and joint strains, his advice is simple:
“I am not telling people they shouldn’t wear heels, but should, maybe wear them in moderation and alternate with other flat shoes.
“Women who wear high heels can take them off when feeling uncomfortable, while driving or sitting at their desk at work. Try, if possible to ease back a bit on the high footwear.
“Wear high heels maybe once or twice a week. And if that’s not practical or desirable, try to remove the heels whenever possible.
“Settle for shoes that are light and comfortable and don’t have a tight area for the toes. Also, women must stray from tempting selections with a high heel. In the long run, your feet will thank you for your efforts.’’
In spite of the fuss over high heel shoes for Nigerian women, Miss Juliet Igwe, a final year student of Tai-Solarin University of Education, Ijebu Ode, Ogun, says that such shoes are like a “Fashion Mantra’’ for her.
She adds that they complete her total appearance, beauty and self esteem.
“I love wedge heels, they make you walk elegantly and you feel this aura of confidence that completes your feminine personality.
“Whether they are associated with any form of health risk, I am not aware,’’ she said.
Ms Rita Izunobi, the Chief Executive Officer (CEO), Ritz Make-up and Décor, says high heel shoes are an essential aspect of a lady’s dressing.
“For a working class lady or a lady who deals with the corporate world, heels are a must wear to greatly enhance your personal standing and gait.
“I heard they could cause back pain, but I have never experienced any,’’ Izunobi told NAN.
A civil servant, Mrs Titi Tela, is of the opinion that high heels could be uncomfortable but inevitable when it comes to a woman’s wardrobe.
“Many women wear them to look and feel sexy, professional, or to boost confidence, but most ladies carry flat slip-ons or shoes in their bags to alternate because these heels can be very discomforting and you do not have a choice but to slip out of them,’’ she said.
Mr Joe Onalo, an engineer, thinks that ladies who wear high heels look attractive.
“I admire ladies on high heels because they have a way of catching one ’s fancy, attention and admiration,’’ he said.