July 11th, 2008
11:33 AM ET

Shoe envy can cause a pain in the foot

By Val Willingham

CNN Medical Producer


OK ladies. Admit it.  Don't you just envy someone like Carrie Bradshaw from “Sex and the City”?   Not only does she look good in the most ridiculous of outfits but at 40-something, she can strut around in those Manolos without falling over.  I would give up my platinum American Express card to wear a pair of those shoes.  But alas, with my arches, bunions and high instep, I haven't a chance.  And according to doctors, Carrie may not be far behind me.  It might be time for her to trade in those stilettos for a smaller heel.


Podiatrists say as we age, the type of shoes we wear can lead to plenty of foot injuries. Yet a lot of people never associate what they put on their feet with their podiatric pain until they begin to age.


In our 30s it's all about the height of the shoe. Certain styles can cause years of pain as you get older. According to Kathya Zinszer, a doctor with the Temple University School of Podiatric Medicine, high shoes can cause heel pain, the formation of bunions and foots flare-ups.  Foot problems caused by improper footwear have become such an issue, researchers at Temple are now testing  the effects of different shoe styles on feet.  Equipped with a runway, pressure plates and computer analysis, doctors are finding the higher the heel, the more stress on toes and ankle joints.  That causes a multitude of long-lasting health issues. Zinszer says they've seen chronic effects from actually wearing heels for a long time. “That actually effect the muscles, the balance, deformities, and the number one thing is degenerative joint disease, also known as osteoarthritis," she said.


And it's not just a health problem for women.   Men can suffer from fashionable shoe issues as well.  "We are looking at the toe boxes in men, where they are a lot narrower, causing bunions and hammertoes," Zinszer said.


In our 40s and 50s, deterioration of bones and muscles may cause the arches in our feet to become lax and lose support.  Doctors say watch the flats and  flip-flops; look for something with a little heel to give you balance, which can still protect your arches.  There are a lot of muscles and tendons in our feet and if we don't treat them right with proper support, they can pinch, collapse and twist.  The result? Lasting pain!


And if you exercise at any age, make sure you get a good-fitting shoe designed for the sport you're involved in. Tennis shoes aren’t appropriate for running and vice versa. The wrong footwear can cause shin splints and joint problems that give you a lifetime of discomfort. 


So, Carrie, listen to the doctors.  Maybe you can carry those Jimmy Choos in a bag and wear a good pair of sneakers while you walk the streets of New York City.  I know it's a  fashion faux pas but oh so good for your tootsies.  


What do you think?  Do you refuse to give up your fashionable shoes, even if they make your feet hurt or do you wear comfortable footwear?   Tell us about it.


Editor’s Note: Medical news is a popular but sensitive subject rooted in science. We receive many comments on this blog each day; not all are posted. Our hope is that much will be learned from the sharing of useful information and personal experiences based on the medical and health topics of the blog. We encourage you to focus your comments on those medical and health topics and we appreciate your input. Thank you for your participation.


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Get a behind-the-scenes look at the latest stories from CNN Chief Medical Correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, Senior Medical Correspondent Elizabeth Cohen and the CNN Medical Unit producers. They'll share news and views on health and medical trends - info that will help you take better care of yourself and the people you love.