What’s the true cost of high heels?

Are you planning to buy some new summer shoes?  A pair of beautiful sandals by Jason Wu, Michelle Obama’s favourite designer, will set you back about £600 from Net-A-Porter. However what is the true cost on your body?

Depending on who you are speaking to, high heels may be a) fantastic leg-lengthening options that should be available to every woman who chooses to wear them, or b) instruments of pain and torture on a par with the medieval rack. Many women maintain that they would never been seen dead out of heels, but probably similarly large numbers swear by flat shoes for comfort. The rise of ballet pumps suggest that this group may be gaining ground. Their point of view is supported by chiropodists and podiatrists, who have expressed concern that constant wearing of high heels could be damaging to feet.

Since 2008, the cost to the NHS of women wearing high heels has been estimated in press reports at £29 million per year. However, no detailed breakdown is available of this figure, which suggests that it might have been plucked from the air. The College of Podiatry estimates that an operation to fix a bunion costs £4,000, and one for ingrowing toenails is £250, so the costs of repairing damaged and maltreated feet would certainly mount up pretty quickly. And that’s before we even get to the philosophical point about whether it’s reasonable to ask the taxpayer to fund solutions to what might be described as self-inflicted problems.

The Trades Union Congress (TUC) has argued that high heels are a danger to women’s health, and should be banned from the workplace. But before anyone starts leaping up and down and shouting about choice, that was in the context of women being required to wear high heels on the shop floor. A spokeswomen from the Society of Chiropodists and Podiatrists commented that there were a few employers who expected women to wear court shoes every day to look smart, and that for women who had to stand all day, that could be quite painful.

She added that a 5cm heel could increase the pressure on the ball of the foot by 52%, and an 8cm heel by 79%. For someone on the shop floor, who is on their feet for perhaps eight hours, that is a lot of additional pressure to manage. Under those circumstances, the TUC’s stance becomes a little more understandable, and indeed, more about giving women a choice. Another consultant podiatrist commented that it might be helpful to ‘mix and match’ footwear, to give feet a chance to recover from high heels.

And that’s probably the lesson to draw: everything in moderation, including high heels. Wearing killer heels for a party won’t do any lasting damage, although you might pay for it the next day if you’re not used to heels. But wearing them every day? That might have more permanent effects. So if you usually wear heels, how about giving your feet a break, and wearing some flat shoes tomorrow?

You can repair your feet by finding and booking a consultation with a chiropodist or podiatrist using Medstars.

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