Nearly all modern women wear them. Athletes, healthcare professionals, corporate executives, students, mothers, retail sales clerks, and teachers all adore their high heel shoes. But too often there is a price to be paid for this passion. It doesn’t have to be that way. I want to show women that by focusing on foot health and making smart choices, we can all keep the heels and lose the pain.
Tens of millions of women worldwide love stylish high heels, yet as many as 70% of us complain of foot/back fatigue and chronic pain. Too often we find that a great pair of shoes will hurt not only our feet but also our knees, back, posture and even the way we present ourselves socially and in business.
Why is this? Well, first of all, heels put our feet in an unnatural position. Not only is the heel elevated, the calf muscle shortened, and the gravity line thrown forward, but also now much of the weight of the body is moved onto a point about the size of a dime at the bottom of our feet. How can we be surprised when this not only affects our feet but also radiates throughout the body? I’ve seen this in my own body and those of my clients, and you may have already felt it yourself. The more I studied this subject the more I found our feet, in many ways, are a reflection of our overall health.
Well, I’m not here to tell you to give up heels. It’s quite the opposite, in fact. Heels have been with us for hundreds of years. They are part of the fabric of our history, and an interesting history it has been. In the beginning men wore heels, before giving them up in part due to pain. We’ve seen heel height go up and down as a reflection of both wealth and society. We’ve seen shoes dominate our closets, our media (thank you Sarah Jessica Parker), and now Wall Street as Jimmy Choo and others have taken their companies public. No, High Heel shoes are here to stay, and I am a fan.
Why You are an Athlete in High Heels
Professional athletes understand the severe demands their sports put on their bodies. So in the off-season their workouts must compensate for all the damage done by repetitive motion, collisions, or foot-pounding hustle. As an athlete, as all good athletes do, a woman in high heels needs a compensatory workout to counteract the effects of wearing heels. Not only can you slow down or reverse some of the pain and discomfort you may be experiencing, but also you can stand taller and longer in your heels.
That’s why I refer to women as Athletes in High Heels! Wearing high heels is a very demanding activity, and that’s why you should start thinking of yourself like an athlete, an athlete in high heels!
To get there I have a three step recipe: helpful habits, smart choices, and great exercises.
Let’s get started.
If we go to the doctor for back pain, besides prescribing x-rays and painkillers, a doctor usually suggests some PT or Pilates to strengthen the core. Have you ever heard a doctor prescribe a workout for the feet? Why do foot exercises have so little space in our culture?
Movement, simple movement, strengthens, creates space, and most importantly increases blood circulation which is key in the healing process of inflammation!
When is the last time you did something nice for your feet? I’ll give you a couple of hints right now, so we can all get started!
Whenever possible get in the habit of walking barefoot, barefoot, barefoot. Make your home a shoe free zone. Your feet have the potential to be as dexterous as your hands, but you’ve put them in bondage for years. Let them free. If you’re lucky enough to live by a beach or plan a getaway, that sand is the playground for your feet. Let them reach and dig and play and explore. It will not only feel good, but also it’s step one in reclaiming dexterity in your feet and more comfort in your heels. When you’re watching or sitting at your desk, there are great games you can play with your feet. Kick your shoes off, and try playing Mozart with you toes. Have fun.
Marilyn Monroe once said, “Give a girl the right shoes, and she can conquer the world.” However, I would revise that and say, “Give a girl the right education about her feet, and she can wear any darn fancy shoe she loves and still conquer the world.”
There are little powerful things we can do to wear heels with less discomfort and more fun: pick the right heel for the right situation and increase the comfort and the support with the right insole.
Make the right choices by matching the heel to the occasion. Am I going to be walking cobble stone streets? Will I be sitting for a two hour dinner or standing with a drink in my hand for two hours straight? The answer to that question might lead the dinner guest to choose a higher heel than the cocktail party guest. Am I going to a garden event? I better trade in those stilettos for a wedge or even a flat.
But even within those broad choices you have more decisions. The wider the heel the broader the weight distribution, and in general the better comfort and support you will have.
The Final Steps for the Athlete in You
By following the High Heel Rescue workout, you’ll learn a great deal about your feet-the shock absorbers of every human body-and discover how their health affects the alignment of your legs, the reinforcement of your glutes, and the position of your pelvis.
Then, by strengthening the foot core, you will stand taller and improve your posture.
I want to leave you with a little homework, a couple of exercises that will revive your feet in a matter of minutes!
Exercise: SHAKE FOOT
To wake up the sensory receptors of the foot and improve circulation. It also creates space between your toes and increases their agility.
• Comfortably sit either on a stool or on the floor, and cross one ankle over the opposite thigh.
• Slide your fingers in between your toes, and hold them there for a few seconds. Your fingers are now acting like one of those sponge separators that you probably use for your pedicure, just a little more intense.
• Hold the foot firmly, and rotate the ankle.
• Gently force the toes in flexion and extension.
This stretches not only the toes but also radiates to the plantar fascia.
If your toes are very stiff and don’t allow the fingers to slide in between, use a massage cream for lubrication. Eventually, your toes will loosen up.
To strengthen the muscle as it lengthens. Balance and posture.
• Stand with both feet parallel and hip-width apart, and hold onto a wall or a chair.
• Keeping your heels on the floor, bend your knees about 20 to 30 degrees, and make sure they move forward in the direction of the second toe. Lengthen your body with the top of the head reaching up to the ceiling (axial extension), and feel the calves lengthening as you bend the knees.
• Without changing the height of your head, lift up your heels so that you are balancing only on the front part of your feet.
• Straighten and extend the legs while maintaining the heels up high and off the floor.
• Keeping the legs straight, lower the heels onto the floor.
• Reverse the action.
Deepens the connection between the feet and the rest of the body. Helps you achieve better balance and awareness of your position in space, giving you an extra level of confidence when you walk in high heels. If you are able to activate the glutes and the inner thigh muscles as you walk down the runway, you will look better, and your feet will not suffer as much.
Do this exercise before a night out.
Exercise: THE ROLLING ROLLER
To release the fascia on the bottom of the foot and increase blood circulation.
• Sit on a chair, and place one foot on the roller (or a rolling pin from the kitchen).
• Without putting too much weight on the roller, quickly move your foot forward and backward so that the roller massages the foot, from the ball to the heel.
• Switch to the other foot.
Your feet will be tingling and alive.
You can also execute this exercise standing up.
Get your practice in with the HHR workout, and you will rock the party.
Now both your feet and your body are ready to enjoy a fun night out in heels!
To learn more go to: High Heel Rescue