Carolinas HealthCare System
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High Heels, Handbags and Health Hazards
Stay Fashionably Safe

Sports Medicine & Injury Care offers same-day appointment scheduling

To schedule an appointment with Sports Medicine & Injury Care call 704-863-HURT or visit our website.

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You may feel on top of the world when you’re out and about sporting a new pair of heels and a fashionable handbag. By the time you get home, though, you can’t wait to put down that bag and kick those cramp-inducing shoes as far off your feet as possible. There’s a reason for this.

“It's called a ‘high heel hangover’,” said Kevin Burroughs, MD, CAQSM, medical director of Sports Medicine & Injury Care at Carolinas HealthCare System. “The challenge about looking fashionable and feeling comfortable is that [the two are] not mutually exclusive.”

Fortunately, there are a few simple changes you can make to alleviate pain while staying fashionable.

Heels That Harm
“Feet are not triangular,” said Dr. Burroughs, who often traces an outline of his patients’ bare feet before placing their pointy-toed heels on top of the outline to show how poorly they fit.

Because high heels prop the heel up unnaturally, your feet are forced to point down, putting an enormous amount of pressure on small, fragile bones and joints.

Short term, increased friction because of unnatural foot position can cause blisters and corns. Over time, wearing heels can lead to the development of bunions, hammer toe, a shortened Achilles tendon or “pump bumps.”

Wearing high heels can also lead to knee and back problems because they cause the wearer’s pelvis to tilt forward, placing more stress on the glutes, lower back and abs.

To avoid problems from high heels:

  • Limit the amount of time you wear high heels. Slip your pumps off under your desk. Bring comfortable shoes to walk from your car to a restaurant. Pack socks or slippers for dancing.
  • Exercise to maintain flexibility. Stretching and yoga are good examples.
  • Buy well-padded shoes. As we mature, we have a loss of tissue in the cushioning pad under the knuckles of the foot and heel bone, leading to pain in these locations. More padding in your shoes can help offset discomfort.
  • Spend more time in flat shoes. A half-inch heel is best.
  • Re-evaluate your shoe wardrobe. “What was great in your 20s may not [work] anymore,” noted Dr. Burroughs. “There’s usually of a flattening of the foot, and it gets wider.”

Purse Problems
Heavy handbags cause fewer injuries than high heels, but they, too, can cause pain. “You can get muscle strains around the shoulder and neck,” Dr. Burroughs said. “The larger the volume, the more strain.”

To avoid neck and shoulder strains:

  • Remove unnecessary items from your handbag. A lighter load means less strain on your body.
  • Periodically switch shoulders so the same shoulder doesn’t always bear the brunt of the load.

Don’t Suffer for Fashion!
Dr. Burroughs or one of our other board-certified physicians at Sports Medicine & Injury Care can diagnose and treat your back or foot pain. Eight Sports Medicine & Injury Care centers are conveniently located throughout the community and offer same-day appointment scheduling. To schedule an appointment, call 704-863-HURT or visit our website.