Stilettos have become statements- a bold banner for femininity and womanhood. But unbeknownst to us, mere mortals in search of the next hot shoe we see in Hollywood, we are experiencing the consequences from our stunning heels.

Research shows that an estimated three out of four Americans experience foot problems in their lifetime- and women have about four times as many foot problems as men. It’s no surprise that the majority of a woman’s foot ailments are the result of poorly fitting shoes and high heels.

We’ve all been guilty of sacrificing our comfort for style at some point in our lives, but if we simply can’t ditch our heels for more sensible flats, here are a few tips that will ensure your next dreamy heel purchase doesn’t turn you into a fashion victim instead.

Problem: High heels have been known to cause knee and back pain. Heels shorten calf muscles and prolonged wearing of heels causes changes to the shape of the feet and may impair normal foot function. In fact, extended wearing of high-heeled shoes causes increased pressure buildup in the forefoot area, often resulting in pain and the formation of unsightly corns. Wearing a lower-heel shoe helps to distribute the pressure.

Do/Don’t:

HEEL HEIGHT – Opt for wider heel vs. a thin stiletto. This will give you more stability when walking. Also, stick to a shoe that is no more than 2.5 inches, which is what most podiatrists will recommend so you can avoid having unnecessary strain on your back.

SHOCK ABSORPTION – Look for shoes that offer extra cushioning or memory foam. These features minimize the impact of walking and lessen the impact on the forefoot.

ARCH SUPPORT- Look for shoes with a solid arch. This will keep you properly aligned while also preventing your feet from flattening or rolling inward.

BREATHABILITY- Look for shoes with breathable lining to prevent blisters and regulate your foot temperature. Shoes with soft leather uppers are preferable.

SIZING – Avoid the temptation of buying that sale-priced shoe that is too big or small since improper fitting shoes can cause you to slip, fall, or develop a foot deformity. The length of your shoe should be a thumb’s spacing from the longest toe to the end of the shoe. Also, buy shoes in the afternoon, as feet tend to swell during the day.

PROPER FIT TOE BOX – The widest part of your foot should correspond with the widest area of the shoe to avoid the pain of too tight shoes. If possible, look for a wider-width shoe or one that has some sort of stretch release in the toe box to safely accommodate foot swelling throughout the day, especially in the summer months, when traveling or while pregnant. Excess stress from tightly fitting shoes can cause permanent foot damage and prevent circulation.

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