The price of beauty

TYLER, TX (KLTV) - By Jamey Boyum - email
Posted by Ellen Krafve - bio | email | Twitter

TYLER, TX (KLTV) - High heels are a fashion statement. They make us look taller and sometimes they just go with the outfit. But, women who wear high heels every day may be developing a problem.

A new study out of Manchester Metropolitan University has shown calf muscles can shorten.

When "the heels" are kicked off, the pain can begin. Lola Blakely used to wear heels, but now her feet don't like them so she buys flatter shoes.

"My feet would kind of ache after you wear them for a while," said Blakely. "I guess I could wear them for short periods of time, but I couldn't go all day."

But, there is an old problem which researchers recently discovered. When women wear high heels five days a week or more, their calf muscles may adapt to the new foot position and sort of bunch up so when they pull on a pair of flats or just go barefoot, walking can be painful.

Dr. Chad McNeil is a physical medicine and rehabilitation physician at Azalea Orthopedic Sports and Medicine.

"If you hold the muscle in a shortened position for a long period of time, then that muscle will not be as adaptable - able to go thru the full range," he explained. "[It's] more likely to sustain tears or get a lot more aches and pains or stiffness and what we call Achilles tendonitis."

The Achilles tendon tends to thicken to counteract the shortening of muscle fibers in the calf and this is where the pain can come from. The muscle tissue has a hard time stretching back out again after many hours of tip-toeing around. But, Dr. McNeil advises trying to kick your shoes off during the day and stretch the calf muscles.

"Get up, maybe go, stand against a wall and stretch the back of the calf out," he said.

He also says stretching more when you get home by putting a towel under your toes and pulling gently towards you is a good idea. That helps get the calf and Achilles tendon back into the right shape.

We all know why women won't give up their heels.

"Heels make your legs look better so that's why women like to wear them," said Blakely.

But, they can take their toll.

"There is a price," said Blakely. "Yes, there is a price."

Dr. McNeil also says wearing heels long-term can damage joints resulting in degenerative joint disease and even osteoarthritis of the knees.

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