There was a time when you would never catch Victoria Beckham without a pair of heels. So it came as a surprise when the fashion designer told The Telegraph: “I just can’t do heels any more. At least not when I’m working.”
Beckham isn’t the first celebrity to ditch sky-high heels. Sarah Jessica Parker, whose “Sex and the City” character ran around New York City in Manolo Blahniks, also turned to flats in 2013. While Beckham’s move to flats was a functional one, Parker was more concerned with the health of her feet.
With heel devotees like Beckham and Parker swapping heels for flats, we spoke to the podiatrist Andrew Gladstone of the London-based clinic chain City Chiropody & Podiatry to find out about the potential damage heels can inflict on our feet.
The list of possible side effects is long.
“High heels can lead to corns on the toes, corns in between the toes, damaged and thickened toenails, cause bunions to worsen, create hard skin on the sole of the foot, lead to changes in the shape of the foot, affect knees and hips, and affect foot function later on in life,” Gladstone told Business Insider.
A Stanford University study published in an issue of the Journal of Orthopaedic Research from December 2014 found that wearing heels that are 3 1/2 inches high and above can strain knee joints and lead to osteoarthritis, the most common type of arthritis in the UK, according to the National Health Service.
Despite the many physical problems high heels can bring, Gladstone said that they “may also cause none of these issues!”
“Some people can wear high heels all day with no problems,” he said. “I think it depends on foot shape — and that’s determined in the womb as to whether someone can get away wearing high heels or not.”
Genetics aside, Gladstone warned that it’s not just heels that can lead to foot problems.
“Often it’s the shoe area around the toes that can cause the most damage — even flats can damage the feet,” he said. “I usually advise as long as you can walk comfortably in heels then they are probably the right height.”
For those committed to wearing heels, Gladstone recommends wearing “the right shoe for the right occasion,” and to opt for “sensible” footwear when taking long walks.
His shoe advice is simple: “Listen to your feet — if they hurt, then they probably need to come off!”
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