Home guest articles Your Podiatrist: A Health Expert Who Can Help You Heel Your Feet?

Your Podiatrist: A Health Expert Who Can Help You Heel Your Feet?

written by Guest Blogger November 24, 2013

If you’ve got chronic pain in your feet, you might find today’s guest post useful. Here’s Melissa Olsen with a few words on foot health and the importance of seeing a Podiatrist. 

No, the title is not a typographical error. Heeling your feet—as well as healing your feet—falls within the field of expertise of your podiatrist, who deals with all health issues related to the feet.

Podiatrists provide an important service, most especially to women: all the more when you consider that women have around 4 times as many foot problems as men do. This is not congenital, as very few persons are actually born with defects or issues of the foot. Foot problems are typically built up in lifestyles, footwear, and bad habits that most podiatrists can identify immediately if they are consulted.

Consider the high heel for a classic example. High heels are a more or less standard fashion choice for women in most societies: in some settings, they are even considered a requirement, as in formal or semi-formal dress code events. Yet, the high heel can be viciously unkind to the foot.

There is a common jest in the fashion world that one should not be able to feel one’s feet anymore—no doubt due to the repeated strain and pain involved in most of the fashionable footwear of today—but the simple fact is that one should be able to feel one’s feet and not feel pain. Hurting feet, whether due to a high heel or some other unexplained reason, is never normal, and it is vastly misguided to perpetuate the common belief that it is normal for feet to hurt. Healthy feet actually do not hurt, at least until they are injured.

Some women might say at this point that they would rather not consult a podiatrist, then, as they predict that all the physician would prescribe would be a total cessation of high heel usage—something most women would never even consider as an option. However, this is an unjust prediction. Most podiatrists, especially those who specialize in female podiatry, are actually aware enough of the significance of these lifestyle preferences and take them into account in their prescriptions.

For instance, Dr. Marlene Reid of the American College of Foot and Ankle Surgeons, writing for the American Association for Women Podiatrists, Inc. or AAWP, notes that smarter heel selections can be the answer. The AAWP website is an excellent infobank, in fact, for all things to do with the health of women’s feet, aside from the topic of high heels.

According to Dr. Reid, as well as many other podiatrists, high heel usage need not be abandoned entirely by women suffering from foot problems: some concessions, however, do have to be made. For instance, women are advised to go lower than 3 inches in their heels when selecting heeled footwear, especially if they intend to wear said footwear for extended periods of time. The front of the shoe should have ample padding to support the foot being pushed down into it by gravity. Your actual heel (not the shoe’s) should be supported by the footwear as much as possible to prevent accidents, falls or slips.

It should be noted that experts like Dr. Reid also acknowledge that some women may in fact have a better inborn tolerance for high heels due to a congenitally high arch on their feet, i.e. some women are born with a foot shape that can better deal with high heels for longer periods of time. Forcing one’s foot into that shape through gradual stress, however, is highly inadvisable and damaging, and may be comparable to some extent to the traditional Chinese practice of binding women’s feet to prevent growth.

The consensus seems to be moderation in usage. One may wear high heels but should not expect to go for long stretches of time in them. This is not precisely new information to most women. All my female friends in university—and most of the ones I have now, even—actually bring two kinds of shoes wherever they go: a pair of flats, slippers or whatever else they call “sensible footwear,” and a pair of heels for special occasions. As one of them told me before, it is only sensible. After all, it would be pretty hard to drive to work wearing stilettos all the time.

There is more to podiatry for women than considerations of the high heel, though. There are even socially-aggravated problems that may be addressed by a podiatrist, for instance, such as the common (almost surprisingly so, at least where most women are concerned) male fixation on the slim, small, lady-like foot. It is not uncommon to type an actress’s name in the Google search bar and get, among the recommendations for searches, her name plus the word “feet”. The recommendation is hardly as common when one is typing names of male actors, by comparison.

Amusing as the other sex’s obsession with feet may be, however, some issues with women’s feet and foot health may be related to it as well. Smaller and lady-like feet often mean smaller shoe sizes in most people’s minds, which may well have exacerbated the tendency for women to wear shoes smaller than their actual size: as many as 88% of them, according to Marie Claire.

The reluctance to admit weight gain—perhaps something viewed in much the same negative light as shoe size gain, culturally?—contributes to this too, as weight gain tends to make the feet grow due to greater weight set upon them. And then there is the fear of aging and its changes, which include—you guessed it—shoe size changes.

Podiatrists bemoan the fact that so many women are content (or as content as they can be in such situations) to live with constant or chronic pain in their feet, with most of them never even realizing that there could be cures to their maladies. From power businesswomen with feet aching due to overly high heels with bad frontal support to pregnant housewives suffering from massive fluid retention and painfully swollen feet during their pregnancies, there are a lot of women putting up with a great deal of pain for nothing. A podiatrist’s office could obviously help a lot of us and should probably be on our speed-dial buttons—even if only to consult if the latest Blahnik is a smart purchase, health-wise.

About the Author:

Melissa Olsen is a marketer, a researcher, and a freelance writer. She is currently contributing to the Ankle & Foot Centers of Georgia, a local center of podiatrists in Atlanta. View more of her works by visiting her Google+.

Do you wear high heels? Personally, I don’t because I can’t walk in them! I end up picturing myself falling flat on my face whenever I even think about trying a pair on.

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1 comment

Bunions and Heel Pain November 26, 2013 at 6:48 am

I completely concur with you that high heels are one of the biggest factors leading to foot problems in women so they should stop wearing heels over 2 inches on a regular basis especially if the heels are really high and one spend a lot of time on your feet.

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