High Heel Pains – Getting it sorted!

Common conditions, Lifestyle, Pain

painful heel conditions

It’s very tempting to wear that pair of stilettos on party night but going through the same excruciating pain every time you wear high heels could be a sign that you need help. The “long legs” effect is temporal, where the damaging effects of high heels on your back, hips, knees and feet may be long term.

The common complaint is pain. Its source could be from your bones, ligaments, tendons, muscles, fascia, toenail beds, nerves, blood vessels, or even skin.

Considering where the location of your pain and with a thorough assessment of your body, experts can understand and nail the root of your problems.
 

There are various treatments you may want to consider in favour of high heels. Postural correction exercises, joint mobilisation, stretching and strengthening exercises may prove beneficial for your back, hips, knees and ankles.

Types of treatment:

  • Achilles tendon pain

Applying ice on Achilles’s tendon, massaging your foot will increase blood circulation and reduce swelling especially at the back of your heel or the ball of your foot. Ice pack should be applied for a maximum of 10-15 minutes otherwise the effect will be reversed. Ultrasound therapy can also help enhance the healing process of your inflamed tendon by improving circulation.

icing

  • Joint Mobilization

Mobilizing the joints of your body addresses any limitations in movements. This helps short and tight muscles, soft tissue restriction, joint capsule restriction, motor control problems, joint range of motion dysfunction and nerve-related issues.

Ankle joint mobilization therapy of doctor man to woman

  • Tight Calf muscles

Extended wear of high heels may shorten your calf muscles. Therefore, the best way to address calf tightness is to use a heat pack on your calf muscles to reduce pain, soothe and improve its blood supply. You could also use a foam roller to relieve tightness.

wall stretch

Simple calf stretches against the wall would also help, hold each stretch for at least 30 seconds.

Take the support of the wall, with the leg to be stretched kept straight at the back. Bend the front leg leaning into the wall causing a stretch to the calf muscle of the back leg. Hold position and repeat for at least 3 sets.

  • Orthotics for Arch support and Cushioning

bunion splint

You could see a podiatrist and invest in customised insoles if you have heel pain. Otherwise, off-the-rack silicone metatarsal pads will also help to protect your forefoot. You basically want to provide as much cushion to your feet as possible to reduce and absorb impact.

  • Bunions

Applying a cold compress over the bunions will reduce pain and swelling. Padding over the bunion will help prevent friction. Corrective orthosis footwear will straighten the toe and put it in its correct alignment during recovery.

Toe alignment correction

  • Treat Metatarsalgia

Rest, ice and avoid weight bearing. Ultrasound therapy can be used to reduce pain and enhance healing. Metatarsal mobilisation is also recommended for improving the range of motion. Use metatarsal pads for relief of pain while standing.

metatarsal pads

  • Prevent Haglund’s Deformity (the bumps at the back of heel)

Avoid wearing strappy heels. Soft-backed shoes or going barefoot helps reduce the friction around the area. Use heel pads to cushion the heel or underneath the heel to lift it up and reduce pressure when walking. Applying cold compress, doing calf stretches and trying ultrasound therapy over the Achilles tendon attachment will help.

US for bumps

  • Support your foot with Kinesio taping

Kinesio taping is a technique used to support your foot structures and promote the natural healing process without restricting the joint range of motion. It lifts the skin to help with drainage and prevent circulatory swelling.

high heels KT tape

  • Knee and Back Pain

Pain in the front of the knee and low back pain is common due to postural adjustments caused by high heels. A rest from high heels, pain relief treatments, mobility exercises, stretching and posture correction would be necessary. It is best to get professional advice and assessment of your back and knees to help determine the severity of your pain and its causes.

Although there are several techniques to treat the cause of your pain, prevention is always better than cure. In fact, it’s always good to get your pain managed before it gets disabling and cripples your lifestyle.

High Heels – Your Guide to Making the Right Choices

Common conditions, Lifestyle, Pain

kitten heels

What if experts could tell you that high heels could be safe for your feet. Ever noticed that your friend can wear their 3-inch stiletto heels all day without complains while you can barely walk 3 steps in the same height? Well, it’s not because your colleague has a good pair of shoes. It’s actually because you’re wearing the wrong pair!

Things to look out for when buying heeled shoes

Every person is different with varying shapes and feet sizes, making it difficult for experts to give a specific number for the number of inches you can add to your heels. Here are few recommendations that they give depending on the structure of your feet.

Check your ankle range of motion (ROM)

The ankle joint is formed where your leg bone (Tibia) articulates with one of the foot bone called talus. Below the ankle joint is a small fluid-filled cavity called sinus tarsi. The size of the sinus tarsi  determines how much your ankle can move. If the movement of your ankles are restricted due to lack of flexibility in your ankles or due to small sinus tarsi, then wearing high heels would lead to ankle pain.

sinus tarsi

Test your ROM for high heels

In sitting position, straighten your knees and move your ankle from neutral position downwards to know your range of ankle plantar flexion. This range is from 45-55 degrees normally but may vary from person to person.

Print 18_Estes_Pages

If any high-heeled pair of shoes puts your feet beyond your normal range of ankle plantar flexion, then you will start with pains in your feet, knees, hips or back. A simple way is to look for shoes with a platform wedge in the front so you’ll get your forefoot elevated as well.

wedge platform

Correct Fitting Shoes

The Back of the shoes

Ensure that the heel counter fits you properly and fits well at the back of your heel to prevent your feet from slipping out as you walk.  If there is a gap between your heel and the shoe, friction blisters that may form as a result and could lead to Hagland’s deformity.

loose fit shoes

You may also want to pay special attention to the back of your feet when wearing sling-back shoes. Such shoes may rub against the back of your heels, causing pain and inflammation.

The Front of the Shoes

Proper shoe size is crucial to prevent the tip of your toes from hanging off the shoes in the case of open toe shoes. Notice the shape and the size of the toe box. If it is too big, you risk getting friction blisters from over-clenching your toes in an attempt to prevent it from slipping out of the shoe. This will shorten the soft tissues resulting in hammer toes. Shoes that are too tight or small will also put pressure on your toes and heels, leading to painful hammer toes, corns, and blisters.

hammer toes in shoes

The Shape of your heel

The pointy stiletto heel puts more pressure on the ball of your foot while wedged heels, which are thicker, distributes your body weight over a larger area of your foot.  The wedged heel usually has a skinny center with a slightly wider bottom, providing slightly more stability as compared to the pointy stiletto heel.

wedges or stilettos

Contrary to  popular belief, wedged heels are not stable. There’s little flexibility for your feet and you have to lift your whole foot right off the ground to walk, stomping your foot back down afterward.

The position of the heel is another key indicator. Ideally, it should be located right under the heel bone and not at the back of the foot. You are going to be thrown off balance if the heel is positioned too far back.

Pay attention to the “slope” or “pitch” of the heel. 

high vs low heels

2-3 inch Heels

Whether you are at college or working all day, a 2-3 inch comfortable pair of shoes will be enough to support the movements of your ankle and not place it in a vulnerable state for injuries. Kitten heels shoes will not only save you from foot troubles but it will lend a trendy feminine look with your dress. For most women, the recess of the sinus tarsi is moderate. The 2-3 inch heel will have a gradual slope of about 20-30 degrees plantar flexion, therefore, will be more comfortable.

Above 3 inches

Some 3.5 to 4-inch heels will have a straight drop down to the front portion of the shoe putting increased pressure on the forefeet. That is bad for your feet as it overloads the weight on your toes and balls of your feet. Such heels should be worn only occasionally and are definitely not suited for walking as it’s likely to cause foot problems with prolonged usage.

Arch Support

Those who have noticed their sole lays flat on the ground may have excessive movements in their foot joints. This condition is known as flat feet and wearing high heels may feel comfortable as they put your feet in an arched position. However, it’s best to avoid excessively high heels for unstable joints. Similarly, it’s better for people with stable joints to wear lower heels, as long as they are supportive to their arches.

If you choose the right pair of shoes for your feet, painful foot conditions could be avoided. In fact, you could enjoy wearing your heels all day without any problems. A sound advice would be to also avoid wearing anything too flat or too high for extended hours to prevent any damage to your joints and soft tissue structures.

Heal your heel – An insight to Plantar Fasciitis

Exercise, Lifestyle, Pain

Heel pain

Have you ever walked on broken glass? Or experienced walking on a bed of nails? Not something that you would ever wish for yourself or anyone. But this is exactly how you would relate to if you have bad heels. It’s frustrating, extremely painful and debilitating. Many of us who have experienced plantar fasciitis have had the firsthand experience of how the pain takes over your mind and stops your world.

What you need to know?

Heel pain is a symptom and the most common reason why you might have it is because of plantar fasciitis. So what is this difficult-to-pronounce “Plantar fasciitis” (“Plan-ter fash-ee-eye-tus”) all about?

Plantar Fasciitis and heel spurs

Before I explain what plantar fasciitis is, let me provide you with a simple understanding of what your body is made of. Most of us know that our body is made of muscles, tendons, bones, joints and so on. The most overlooked part is “fascia.” Fascia is the largest sensitive band of tissue that covers and cushions each and every internal structure of your body. Kind of like your body’s internal cling film.

Plantar fascia is one such superficial taut band of fascia present beneath the skin on the sole of your foot. This elastic band runs from the heel of your foot to the front of your sole towards your toes, supporting the arches of your foot to distribute your body weight onto your feet. It acts like an inbuilt trampoline with great shock absorbing properties.

Plantar fascia

So when there is weakness, pain, loss of hydration, inflammation or tear of this fascia, it causes a direct pressure of your body weight onto your heel causing sole pain. Over time, there could be calcium deposits developing underside of your heel bone called “heel spurs” which could be detected via an X-ray.

heel spur

Are you the reason why you have painful heels?

The exact cause of plantar fasciitis is unknown. However, some of the most common reasons why plantar fasciitis could occur are as follows:

  • Overuse or micro tear –  Fascia damage due to standing for long hours or repeated uphill workouts.
  • Tight calf muscles – This causing excessive pull and strain to the fascia.
  • Faulty shoes– Too hard or soft surface, high heels (Stilettos) or flat shoes with insufficient arch support.
  • Excessive or sudden weight gain – Due to pregnancy or obesity.
  • Flat or very high arched feet – This causes the fascia to over-stretch or shorten.

The “Happy feet” Treatment Approach

Because this condition can be quite the challenge to treat and often take a long time to heal, most clinicians are always finding new effective ways treatments methods.

Depending on the extent of injury to your plantar fascia and the time period of your pain (acute or chronic), some of the best drug-free ways to get you back on feet are:

  • Therapeutic Massage

Plantar-Fasciitis massage

Different techniques of massage will enhance the blood flow to the fascia and promote healing.

  • Ice application

icing plantar fascia

Ice application reduces inflammation as it contracts the blood vessels and when combined with massage it will reduce pain, inflammation and promote healing.

  • Foam Roller

foam roller calf

The use of foam roller to bring about a massage-like effect, this relaxes tight calf muscles.

  • Calf stretches

Osteopathy calf stretch

Although there are several techniques to stretch your calf muscles, one of the simplest one can be done in sitting with legs stretched out. Use a belt or a towel to wrap around the foot and pull it towards your chest holding both ends of the belt or towel. Hold for 30 seconds and relax. Repeat at least 3 times for best results.

  • Ultrasound therapy

therapeutic ultrasound

Ultrasound therapy is the use of high-frequency sound waves on injured tissues causing a deep circulatory effect that will enhance tissue healing.

  • Extracorporeal shockwave therapy

Osteopathy Shockwave therapy

“Extracorporeal” means from outside the body and “shockwave” means a pressure wave. So high energy pressure waves are used on injured tissues to reduce pain and recreate micro-trauma to stimulate the healing process. It is also best used for bone spurs treatment.

  • Kinesiology Taping

Kinesiology taping

Kinesiology taping is a technique used for applying therapeutic tapes on soft tissues to enhance healing without causing any restriction to joint motion. It will help relax your foot muscles, reduce any swelling and provide support to the arches of your foot.

  • Corrective shoes, Insoles and Orthotics

Osteopathic Insoles

An insole provides support to the arches of your foot and helps to correct high or low arches according to your condition. It helps to evenly distribute your body weight on your feet and mostly used as a supplement to wearing good shoes.

  • Strength training exercises

Heel drops and raises

High-load strength training is the newest approach used for treating plantar fasciitis. It’s simple and just requires you to stand with both your feet on the edge of a stair. You start by letting your affected heel hang over the edge of the stair for 3 seconds followed by raising it up to hold for 2 seconds and then dropping it down again for 3 seconds. Aim for 3 sets of 12 repetitions

It is believed to increase collagen formation that helps normalize tendon structures and improve the load-bearing capacity of the plantar fascia.

Now that you know more about your heel pain and it’s available treatments. It would be wise and worth trying some of them. Though you may not be pain-free overnight, but it will certainly help you heal your heel sooner than you think!