I love high heels. I know, they’re a vice and are bad for my feet, but I enjoy the extra height whenever I slip on a pair of three inch stilettos. A footwear obsession since my teens, high heels were and still are an instant confidence booster I swear by today. However, after a recent tumble in my heels, I sprained my ankle and had to book an appointment with Dr. Kardem Kiter, my go-to specialist and a licensed podiatrist at the Family Podiatry Centre.
While doing an ultrasound for my ankles, I asked her if I could wear heels weeks after this treatment. She said, “When you wear high heels, the angle of your foot goes down like this, [gesticulates slope].”
My stomach sank. Having to sacrifice my stilettos was something I loathed doing, but I realised that I needed to lessen my reliance. Rather than take an all or nothing approach, I spoke with Dr. Kardem on some of the alternative options we can try out without sacrificing height.
What type of heels should you avoid?
Dr. Kardem Kiter: Podiatrists tend to discourage wearing high heels [in general], however, some styles are worse than others. Narrow, stiletto-style heels are my least favourite, especially those with a dramatic pitch. The pitch refers to the height difference of the heel relative to the sole of the shoe. Of course, the higher the heel, the more stressful it will be on the feet.
What happens if you wear stilettos frequently?
Wearing stilettos once in a while won’t really be a problem, but frequent use can contribute to the development of conditions like metatarsalgia, bunions, nerve impingements, or nail damage. In the long run, the Achilles tendon can also be affected. Accidents such as ankle sprains are a risk as well.
What type of heels strengthen the ankles?
Having a shoe with a solid heel cup helps to stabilise the ankle joint, especially if it sits above the ankle, such as in a boot. The vamp, or the upper section of the shoe covering the foot, is also helpful in providing support. It is useful to have a shoe that stabilises the front and the back of the foot to allow the entire structure to stay supported.
What are your thoughts on flatforms?
Flatforms are one of my favourite types of shoes, provided they have a solid heel cup. They have a low pitch as well as a vamp while providing some height, which many ladies appreciate. A court shoe with a firm heel cup is great as it achieves the same goals whilst being a bit more dressy for formal environments.
With flatforms and platforms, what differences does it make to your feet when you wear them?
Flatforms act very similarly to a regular sneaker so they’re very comfortable because they allow the foot to function ‘normally’. Platforms have a bit of a higher pitch and can put a bit more stress on the ball of the foot, resulting in an overload. The effect that a shoe has on a foot depends on the structure of the shoe, as well as the person’s foot anatomy and biomechanics.
Between the two, are platforms or flatforms better for your feet?
Flatforms are the better choice between the two, but please remember that they will never be as good for your feet as a pair of solid running shoes or well-structured sneakers.
For wedged heels, what’s the best height for wedges and how does it affect the feet when you wear wedges that are more than three inches?
I would keep wedges to a maximum of 3 inches if they are going to be worn for extended periods. Keep the higher heels for special occasions where standing will be kept to a minimum. Going too high can cause problems like ankle sprains as well as knee and lower back pain.
What type of heeled shoes should we wear?
A block-heeled shoe of about 2-3 inches in height with a firm heel cup, a vamp that covers the top portion of the foot, and a pitch that is as low as possible. A platform is great for reducing pitch, so if you have a shoe with a heel higher than 3 inches, make sure you have one. No matter the shoe type, it is also essential to have a shoe that is wide enough for your foot.
Why do you recommend block heels?
The key word here is ‘stability’. A wider heel provides a more stable platform and reduces the risk of developing conditions that people tend to associate with wearing bad shoes.
For block-heeled shoes, what is the maximum height?
Personally, I like heels of about 2-3 inches in height. The higher you go on a heel, the less stable it is and the more likely it is to cause foot problems.
Out of all the heeled shoes you like, what’s the one investment pair you swear by?
If I had to pick a safe heel for anyone to wear on a daily basis, it would be a 1-2 inch court shoe with a solid heel cup. The Shiori from Solescape fits these criteria perfectly, and it can also accommodate an orthotic if required. What it does differently from other formal shoe brands is that it is available in 3 different widths, so you can find a perfect fit no matter how wide your feet are.
For a more casual look, look for a 2-3 inch wedge with a supported heel. For more specific shoe recommendations, it’s a good idea to visit your podiatrist to determine what kind of shoes are best for your unique foot type.