Extreme foot fashions = more doctor visits

September 28, 2010 Tina Andrews loves high heels.

"They make me feel so womanly."

She wore them a lot until she started waking up in pain.

"It felt like I really needed to stretch my foot. It felt like the instep of my foot had shrunk during the night," she explained.

She switched to wedge shoes, with no real relief and flats gave her a real surprise.

"I would get pain throughout the day."

Dr. Eric Ricefield, of Your Next Step Podiatry, and other podiatrists say this has been a busy year for shoe-related foot pain.

"All of these extreme shoes are placing the body in an abnormal position."

Super-high heels put all the body weight on the front of the foot.

"It can exacerbate bunion, and hammertoe deformities. It can create neuroma, or nerve irritations."

And very flat shoes don't have enough support, so they overstrain the Achilles tendon at the heel.

"It has no lift, and can't go through its normal stretching."

But Dr. Ricefield says you can have fashion without killing your feet by reserving extreme shoes for special occasions and when you won't be on your feet for long hours. Also invest in several pairs that combine style with good support. Plus he says even some dressy shoes now make room for custom-fit orthotics or arch supports. They can help shift weight from the ball of the foot back to the heel correcting the imbalance.

Tina is saving her special shoes now, and doing exercises to properly stretch and strengthen her feet.

"The exercises Dr. Ricefield has given me have worked tremendously, especially that shocking pain you get when you first get out of bed."

Each foot has 26 bones, 33 joints, 107 ligaments, 19 muscles and numerous nerves, tendons and blood vessels so strengthening the foot with exercises can make a difference.

Dr. Ricefield suggests doing at least two if you wear high heels. The first is an Achilles stretch. Just lean against a wall, keeping one leg straight, and stretch the heel. Hold for about 10 seconds and try to repeat 10 times on each leg.

The second is a standard calf stretch. Stand on a step and let your heels dip down. Again, try to hold for 10 seconds and repeat several times.

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