are heels or flats better for your health

Pumps, pointed toes, strappy sandals, mules and booties – we can’t deny that we have a strong affection for a beautiful pair of high heels. Women have been donning a pair of Christian Louboutin’s or Valentino’s for years, to work, to dinner, to church; anywhere and everywhere to show off the legs, the butt and of course that gorgeous pair of heels that you swore to your partner you bought on sale. But with heels, comes the struggle and the pain from the balls of your feet that can make your feet swell and get you a piggy back home after a long night.

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Now flats are all the rage at the moment with brogues, moccasins and sneakers being seen everywhere from fashion week to the early morning trains at Central Station and really, they seem like the healthy alternative to a pair of high heels. But do those ballet flats cause just as much damage to your feet as your heels do, or should you be swapping your pumps for penny loafers?

We’ve all heard the horror stories and had a look at the awful pictures that come with prolonged heel wearing, but does this ever actually deter us from buying or wearing heels? Maybe, sometimes, but probably not. Walking long distances and wearing high heels all day can have a serious impact on your feet. Not only does it put a lot of pressure on the balls of your feet to carry your body weight, it also tightens the quadricep muscles to help stabilise your arching back making them more prone to injury. You may also notice your calves feeling tight when you take your heels off after a long day at work, which actually makes your calves shorter and can make it uncomfortable to walk without heels if you are a chronic heel addict.

are heels or flats better for your health

Wearing high heels everyday can also result in the dreaded hammer toe, that no woman wants to ever see on their foot. The bony prominence on the top of the toes is caused by overuse of high heels and is not only painful, but also very unsightly. High heels use can also cause bunions, callouses and ‘pump bumps’, which are little bony bumps on your heel from the rubbing of the shoe. It’s also been said that high heel wearers are more likely to develop osteoarthritis and back pain. High heel wearers may also gain extra weight per year, due to their lack of activity while in heels.

But we’re giving heels a really bad wrap here. While overuse of them can cause these issues, the do have some benefits, and while most of them are aesthetic, a study by The University of Verona has found that heel wearers have stronger pelvic floor muscles. High heels can also make the wearer feel more glamorous and confident, which may help them in aspects of their life.

Now you don’t have to give up heels completely, there are still plenty of options. For everyday use, a lower, thicker heel is recommended for stability and ease of walking. The heel should also have enough space around the toes for the inevitable swelling that comes by 4 o’clock in the afternoon. Your highest heels or those most difficult to walk in should be left for dinner events, where there will be little walking.

Flats don’t get off that easy though, they’re not always the angels you would think. When choosing flat shoes, it is imperative that you ensure they have enough internal support for your arches, heels and balls of your feet. If the shoes are quite literally flat, this can cause problems within the arches and cause pain when walking from the lack of cushioning. Flats that roll up or curl easily should be avoided or have innersoles added to help support the foot. Sneakers and joggers are a good choice as they have internal cushioning that supports the arches, heels and balls of your feet.

The moral of the story? Be smart about the shoes you buy. Look for flats with cushioning and support and look for heels that are comfortable, roomy in the toes and with a smaller, thicker heel. Keep those gorgeous stilettos for fancy dinners where you partner parks right outside the front door.

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