The allure of high heel shoes can make the world run out of superlatives. From exuding confidence to enhancing allegiance and down to complimenting gait, women have more than just enough reasons to weigh high heels. Some even do it to show off that they can actually balance, walk on a rough ramp, or even dance while wearing those six inch stilettos.
Of course, you cannot take it away from them; heels have some magic wand in them that a flat shoe by any name will not give a wearer.
High heels, reportedly, were first used back in the Middle Ages to help people keep their feet in stirrups as they rode horses. But it is such a fad today that if you gave many a woman the choice between heels and food, they would go for the former.
Like Donata Umurungi, a 22-year-old university student confesses, stilettos serve more than just a fashion, they boost her confidence. “High heels make me feel confident since I stand a little taller than my height.”
But Umurungi, like millions of other women out there are either knowingly taking the risks or just living the painful pleasures high heels. Doctors warn that heels have dire consequences to wearers over time.
The danger within
Beth Gatonye, an aesthetician at Lemigo Hotel and Elith Dayspa at Highland Suites Hotel, Nyarutarama, has a list of consequences that could arise from excessively hoisting oneself on this shoes.
“The high heeled shoes cause your foot to point downward amplifying the force of stress at your toes, this will in turn cause you to unconsciously adjust your posture to a more uncomfortable one. Your walk will resemble a limp affecting your balance and could easily hurt your ankle and limit their movement (ankles),” Gakonye says.
Gatonye explains that back pains could also result from frequently wearing high heels.
“It could lead to lower back pains due to the strain experienced by the back as one leans back involuntarily to the change of posture. It is common to hear women who frequently wear this shoes complain of back pains and such discomforts.”
It is common to overhear women used to high heels complain on how hard it is for them to wear flat shoes or complaining of pains after wearing flat shoes. Gatonye says this is because high heels shorten Achilles tendons and calf muscles, hence the pain experienced by frequent high heel wearers when they wear flat shoes.
Simple physics explains the higher the heel, the more pressure exerted on one’s toes which in-turn causes damage to the nerves on the toes.
Gatonye names other effects that could arise as bunions and hammer toes which are deformities that could be traces back to excessive wearing of heels.
Hammer toes cause is a deformity where the end of the toe is bent downwards while bunions develop when the pressures of bearing and shifting your weight fall unevenly on the joints and tendons in your feet.
“Some women experience issues where their toe nails ‘bite’ into their flesh. This is because the heels press the toes together as they conform with shoe’s shape. Heels don’t allow space in between them to toes,” Gakonye says.
Maria Mukandutiye, a freelance masseuse who visits clients in their homes, says she has noted back pains and calf pains as a common complaint among most of her female clients who regularly wear high heels.
“It would be hard and probably incorrect to make a conclusion that the shoes are the chief cause of this pain but amongst most of the clients I visit mostly corporate women aged between 25 and 40), back pains and pain on the calves are common. Most of them spend most of their time in high heels. Some complain of being unable to discontinue wearing heels or other to bear the pain,” Mukandutiye says.
Making it worse
According to Gatonye, the most common indicator and sign of any condition arising from high heels is pain.
“Pain and discomfort will increase gradually indicating the development of your condition. Back pain and pain in the calves are the most common; you will also begin to notice bunions or experience complications in your knees. Posture also changes though gradually that most people don’t even notice; you walk as if you are attempting to bend.”
The conditions are worse if the wearer began hoisting herself at a younger age as the feet experience pressure before full development of the structures.
“When one begins wearing heels as a child, the effects tend to be worse as they begin before the structures are fully developed.”
To correct conditions and discomforts that could arise from frequent high heel wearing, Gatonye advises women to take on massages, physiotherapy and revert to flat shoes.
“Massages assist in easing pressure in the affected joints. Physiotherapy is highly recommended as its aim is to remedy impairments and disabilities and increase mobility. Some get to the extent of surgery if their knees have severe complications or if the bunions and hammer toes are severe,” Gatonye says.
“High heels are not wrong; you just have to know the limits and don’t overdo it. Make sure you have flat shoes at reach, if you work in an office, you can wear flat shoe while walking around the office to reduce the amount of time you spend in them. Also ensure that you don’t wear excessively high heels, two to three inches is okay.”
Lilian Dee Muhoza. ‘It’s not like one would wear high heels every day. I wear them once a week or even once in two weeks and it doesn’t affect me much. I think it’s worth the smartness; heels look great on dinner dresses.’
Julius Ndayisaba. ‘I don’t understand why a woman wears heels yet she has to walk a long distance. It doesn’t add up however good she would be looking. You can’t seek smartness when it exposes you to injuries.’
Amani Ikomezekudufasha. ‘High heels have serious side effects. People should be cautious and the bad thing is some ladies just can’t do without them. If you want to use heels, wear them once in a while.’
Aline Kabatesi. ‘They say smartness knows no weather and so would I say for any side effects. If a girl has to be smart, then she has to overlook everything else that would stop her.’
Compiled by Patrick Buchana