High-Heels Linked to Long Term Ankle Pain

The types of shoes women wear, specifically high-heels, pumps, and sandals may cause future hind-foot (heel and ankle) pain, according to researchers at the Aging Research Institute of Hebrew SeniorLife. Nearly 64 percent of women who reported hind-foot pain regularly wore these types of shoes during some point of their life. Published in the journal Arthritis Care & Research, the study is one of the first to examine the association between shoe wear and foot pain.

Though foot pain is a common compliant in the US, relatively little about the causes of foot pain in older adults. Women are more likely than men to experience foot pain; however, it’s unclear if this is because of a higher rate of foot deformities, underlying disease, shoe wear, or other lifestyle choices.

From a list of 11 shoe types, study participants were interviewed about a particular style of shoe they wear on a regular basis, what they regularly wore during five age periods in the past, and if they experience pain, aching, or stiffness in either foot during most days. Nearly 30 percent of women and 20 percent of men reported general foot pain, which matches up with other studies. However, the research team, found a significant association in women who reported hind-foot pain and past shoe wear that included high-heels and pumps.

The shoe types were classified as “poor” (high-heels, pumps, sandals, and slippers), “average” (hard- or rubber soled shoes and work boots), and “good” (athletic and casual sneakers). Over 60 percent of women reported regularly wearing “poor” shoes in the past, compared with only 2 percent of men.

When we walk, our feet absorb a significant amount of biomechanical stress each time our heel hits the ground. “Good” shoes, such as sneakers and other athletic footwear, often have cushioned soles and other features designed to absorb this shock and protect the foot. With “poor” shoes, the heel and ankle absorb most of the impact, which may be why women who wear high-heeled shoes often report pain in this part of the foot.

According to lead author, Alyssa Dufour, “Young women should make careful choices regarding their shoe types in order to potentially avoid hind-foot pain later in life.”


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