Trendy high heeled boots may be the height of winter fashion, but they are a disaster waiting to happen for women wearing them, according to orthopedic surgeon, Sean Peden, MD, a foot and ankle specialist with Orthopaedic & Neurosurgery Specialists (ONS) in Greenwich and Stamford, CT.
“Any high heel worn with regularity can damage the structure of the foot and weaken the ankle. High heeled boots do the same kind of damage and they don’t provide adequate stability on snowy and icy surfaces,” he said.
Now that temperatures are dipping below freezing, icy patches on sidewalks and steps are presenting a serious threat to firm footing. According to the American College of Foot and Ankle Surgeons, slips and falls from high heeled boots account for hundreds of injuries each year, including sprained and broken ankles, toes and metatarsal bones. Elsewhere in the body, falls from spikey boots commonly result in broken wrists as well as strains in the leg, back and neck muscles.
Even on dry land, the physical hazards of wearing high heels are well known. Beyond pinched toes, blisters and aching arches, Dr. Peden noted wearing heels over a prolonged period of time can damage muscles, tendons and nerves in the feet. Wearing heels also seem to play a role in the development and worsening of bunions and they wreak havoc on balance and posture. A recent study conducted by researchers at Hanseo University in South Korea followed a group of young women training to become airline stewardesses who were required to wear high heels throughout their four year program. When compared to incoming freshmen, the ankle muscles of women who were seniors were misaligned and considerably weaker, Additionally, the senior women had dramatically worse balance.
Foul winter weather makes wearing heels all the more precarious. Dr. Peden warned, “All it takes is one misstep to end up with a serious injury, lost time from work and possibly even surgery.”
If you do hurt yourself falling off those stylish heels, advised Dr. Peden, immediately use the RICE method – rest, ice, compression and elevation – to help reduce the pain and swelling. Even if you can walk on the injured foot, seek a medical evaluation if there is swelling and bruising as those symptoms can indicate a serious injury, Left untreated, injuries can result in long term complications such as chronic ankle instability, pain, arthritis and deformity.
A safer bet, however, is to opt for more appropriate foul weather boots with a wide heel, no higher than an inch, and a treaded heel and sole. They may not be the most fashionable accessory, but then again, a cast and crutches aren’t either.