Monday, 8 February 2016

Back pain - could it be those high heels?

The 26 major bones, 33 joints, 107 ligaments and 19 muscles comprising ourfeet are designed to provide you with balance and strength as you walk or run over many different types of terrain;

  • Your two feet strike the ground an average of 1,800 times over the course of walking one mile;
  • Our feet carry all of our weight! Walking - your feet bear the force of 1.5x your body’s weight. Running - 3-4x increase in force;
  • Our body is one long chain of gears from feet to head. If any one part, at any point is under stress or misaligned away from a comfortable centre/neutral - function can be compromised! This may continue with stresses, compensations and extra wear and tear throughout the entire chain;
  • Wearing high heels (especially overtime) leads to faulty biomechanics and unnecessary stress on your ankles, knees, pelvis, and spine;
  • In heels, your pelvis (our centre of gravity) tilts forward > increased curvature in base of spine and workload of muscles/stiffened joints > we then lean back and over extend our upper backs to compensate and to help keep our balance;
  • When wearing heels, weight is focused on the joints of the ball of the foot, mainly the big toe (oooouch!!) (overtime this may encourage painful bunion formation):

Painful bunion formation left big toe!
Painful bunion formation left big toe!

  • High heels are one possible cause of flat feet and tight calf muscles;
  • Good footwear is essential to the way we walk and the pressure on our body;
  • Feet need a surface which allows them to bend, grip and roll as you walk,   which is difficult to do in some shoes, especially heels.

A little advice:

  1. Wear heels in moderation i.e. If you wear them during the week; wear flats at the weekend;
  2. Try to choose heels 3 inches or less;
  3. Make sure shoes and heels aren’t too tight, short or solid, otherwise you will restrict movement and you won’t be able to use your foot properly;
  4. Strengthen core and back muscles & gently brace / tense abdomen and pelvic floor whilst walking;
  5. Keep your head upright, shoulders back and don’t stick your chest out;
  6. Spread weight evenly over the whole shoe when walking;
  7. Don’t walk too fast;
  8. Do ask if we can help. If you experience discomfort (feet, ankles & up). Though please understand that we are unlikely to offer specific advice without having first assessed you.

Some patients like the lady pictured below have found being prescribed and fitted for custom made, heat moulded orthotics very helpful.  She initially presented complaining of knee pain (note - flat feet!).  We fitted her with the insoles and later asked how she felt, she reported she was happy and that she hadn't been aware/noticed the pain since wearing the insoles!

Patient with flat feet being fitted for custom, heat moulded orthotics
Patient with flat feet being fitted for custom, heat moulded orthotics

Oh and if you are lucky enough to live near a beach...Try to do more barefoot walking on softer, more unstable terrain e.g. sand/grass - to help strengthen and retrain your feet and ankles (sand is also a great exfoliant and will help to soften and grind down that pesky rough skin - bliss!! :D) 

Walking barefoot on a soft terrain helps strengthen and retrain feet and ankles
Walking barefoot on a soft terrain helps strengthen and retrain feet and ankles