Head over heels

Make peace with stilettos, wedges and platforms—without sacrificing your feet.

By Denise Roco

MARCH 2013

Unlike Gilberto’s girl from Ipanema, most Filipinas are vertically-challenged and have to take the extra effort to achieve that “tall and tan and young and lovely” description, with emphasis on “tall”. From stilettos to boots, platforms to office heels, there are many fashionable remedies to the height problem.

Suffering for style

But the solution to the problem raises another problem: The pain from wearing new heels as payment for the pleasure of purchasing them. It’s easy to fall prey to the notion of tiis-ganda. Giselle Tomimbang, managing partner of B-Side Productions, reacts without a hint of shame, “I wear heels obviously for the much needed height and illusion of longer legs.” Frequently spending nights dancing away and rushing about as her job requires, she states loud and proud, “Style over comfort, baby!”

Michelle Garcia, a hotel’s marketing communications manager, says, “I wear heels because I feel sexy in [them],” but laments, “My worst experience was when I wore a new pair of heels [to] a cocktail party and stood for hours on end!” Certainly, breaking in new heels isn’t the same as breaking in a pair of new rubber shoes. As a former events and PR officer of an upscale department store, I succumbed to excruciating heels not only for height’s sake but because all my co-workers and superiors wore them. It was close to mandatory in our dress code, plus I had to look as professional and as stylish as they were.

Hell in heels

Should every Filipina suffer in heels, and to what end? Even though high heels don’t come with a warning label like a pack of cigarettes, they can be dangerous for your health. U.S.-licensed chiropractor Johnny Tan, M.D., explains, “Wearing high-heeled shoes transfers pressure from the back to the front of the feet. The weight puts pressure on the [middle and front bones of the feet] and repositions them out of the normal bone placement. Prolonged usage of these shoes constantly pushes these bones and juxtaposes them closer to the next one in the front.” On top of that, the extra added pressure and friction cause bunions. “The feet get the brunt of the pressure, thus straining the muscles and tendons.” And that’s why the feet feel as though they’ve climbed a mountain and back.

Yet the detriment doesn’t stop there. The good doctor continues, “The back muscles are also involved in the injury due to the supplementary help they contribute to maintain balance. Back muscles extend [backward flexion] to stop the forward fall of the body. The elevated heels will incessantly push the body forward, thus constantly getting help from the muscle groups. The back muscles contract in the process and may produce muscle strain and muscle spasms.”

If back pain is not enough repercussion, Dr. Tan elaborates further on the constant use of high-heels. “There’s more rubbing and touching of the back joints and lower limbs creating more wear and tear. Discomfort will accompany the degenerative process initially, and this may turn into [mild, moderate to severe] pain. In this stage, a simple strain and balancing act done by the body due to wearing high-heel shoes now becomes a permanent and untreatable condition.” All that risk is at bay, including sprains and falls from going off-balance. It’s no surprise to go off-balance when every step is an ouch.

Seeking sole salvation? Read about healthier alternatives to stilettos in the March issue of HealthToday, out now in newsstands and bookstores.

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