Monday, April 23, 2018

Moderation necessary to avoid negative effects of high heels

CLARKSBURG — Warmer weather provides a great opportunity for dressing up, and for many women that includes slipping on a pair of high heels to complete the look. It also means millions of teenage girls are sliding into stilettos for prom.

Although occasional wearing high heels will likely only lead to lingering health problems in the event of a fall, consistently sporting the footwear can affect the feet, knees, hips and back, according to local health-care professionals.

"It affects the biomechanical walking pattern, the gait pattern, of the entire lower extremity," said Justin Brewer, a physician's assistant at the United Orthopaedic and Spine Center in Bridgeport.

The change in walking pattern can place stress on the inside of the knee joint, potentially causing arthritis over time, he said.

The likelihood for developing knee arthritis increases in by 20 percent in those who are overweight, Brewer said.

Others can be genetically predisposed to knee problems and knee arthritis. The risk also increases as the heel height increases, he said.

Studies have also indicated biomechanical stress on the hips and lower back, he said.

According to Clarksburg podiatrist Dr. Keith Newman, his two concerns for those who wear heels 2 inches or higher would be the effects from the increased load on the forefoot and the potential for adaptation of the Achilles tendon.

The Achilles tendon may shorten in individuals who wear heels as it adapts to the shortened position from the higher heeled shoe, he said.

"Some people will adapt over years or decades of use, and then they may not be able to wear flat shoes effectively anymore without pain," Newman said.

For those who want to minimize risk of developing complications from high heels, Brewer recommends limiting use.

"Everything in medicine and everything in life is moderation," he said.

Brewer said the people at his practice who seem to be most likely to have issues from wearing heels are those who are overweight or wear the shoes six to eight hours a day.

Those who are already experiencing pain from wearing heels should discontinue wearing them, he said.

Switching to low-impact exercises like biking, swimming or an elliptical machine will help keep reduce stress on the joints, he said.

"Losing weight, of course, will also help take the stress off the knee," he said.

Those who choose to wear the heels anyway should look for shoes with cushion for the metatarsal bones that connect to the toes.

Newman also recommended moderating the amount of time spent in high heels, but acknowledged that there are people who will wear the shoes regardless of the potential impacts on the body.

Those people "will want to make sure (the shoe is) well-cushioned, because you're pressing your luck over a number of years," he said.

Cushions can also be purchased separately that can be worn on the foot or placed into the shoe.

To help prevent shortening of the Achilles tendon, which connects the calf muscles to the heel bone, Newman recommended a calf stretching regimen. His favorite is a straight-leg calf stretch in which the individual lunges forward toward a wall while keeping the back leg straight with the heel flat on the floor.

He actually recommends these stretches for anyone. "I do them myself. I'm a strong believer," he said.

Of course, those experiencing pain can see their healthcare provider.

"We'll evaluate the patient, get an X-ray, see if they're starting to develop knee arthritis and see what kind of damage has been done to the knee joint," he said.

Friday, March 23, 2018

High heels are the worst, and women are finally ditching them

Amanda Powers hasn't worn high heels in years: not to work, not to parties, not even to her own wedding.

"They're not comfortable," she said. "They're not fun to wear. Not to mention, I walk fast and they slow me down."

Across the country, women are trading in their high-heeled stilettos for sneakers and ballet flats. Workplaces are becoming more casual, and it is increasingly acceptable to wear sneakers to dinner. But analysts say there are other changes afoot, too: More Americans are working from home, and those who do go into the office are more often walking to work. (In Washington, for example, 14 percent of residents now commute by foot, up from 12 percent in 2012, according to census data.) Fitness trackers like the Fitbit have also made people more aware of how much they are — or should be — moving.

"Even after we get to work, we're trying not to sit at our desks all day," said Katie Smith, director of retail analysis at Edited. "We stand. We take the stairs. We walk to lunch. We're constantly counting our steps, so it makes sense to wear comfortable footwear and clothing."

Sales of high heels dropped 12 percent last year, while sales of women's sneakers rose 37 percent to $2.3 billion, according to the NPD Group's retail tracking service.

The sales decline wasn't because of lack of options: High-heel inventory rose 28 percent from the year before, according to Edited, a London-based retail technology company. And the sagging sales didn't have much to do with price: About one-third of high heels had been discounted by an average of 47 percent.

"This is not a burn-your-heels moment — the majority of women still have heels in their wardrobes," Smith said. "But there isn't an expectation anymore that if I go to a party, I have to put on my spiky heels, stand for two hours and then want to die. Social mores are changing."

It doesn't hurt that flats — which are popping up on runways and the red carpet — are having a pop culture moment, either. Marc Jacobs's latest fashion show featured models in silk lace-up brogues and crystal-embellished ballet flats, while actress Gal Gadot wore gladiator sandals to the "Wonder Woman" premiere. Even first lady Melania Trump, known for her love of high-end high heels by Christian Louboutin and Manolo Blahnik, traded in her stilettos for a pair of white sneakers last year for a trip to Texas after Hurricane Harvey.

Tech giants are also taking note: A ballet-flat emoji is slated to make its debut later this year.

"Across the board, there's an increasing casualization of every occasion, including at work," Smith said. "We're dressing in jeans and sneakers. We're dressing for comfort and function."

Recent surveys show that women are buying more athletic shoes and sandals than they are dress shoes or fashion boots, according to market research firm Mintel. Nearly half of those surveyed said they are willing to pay more for shoes that are comfortable.

High-heel makers, many of which had their heyday in the "Sex and the City" era of the early 2000s, have weathered a wave of consolidation in recent years. Michael Kors last year paid $1.2 billion to buy Jimmy Choo, the upscale shoe company. Two years earlier, Coach bought Stuart Weitzman for $574 million.

"People are multitasking more these days — they're going from yoga class to work, then from happy hour to pick up their kids, and they don't want to change into four different outfits," said Alexis DeSalva, retail and apparel analyst at Mintel. "Flat shoes have become a staple in multipurpose dressing."

Nike last week announced a new retail concept, called Unlaced, that will specialize exclusively in women's sneakers. The company is also expanding its lineup of women's sizes and, earlier this year, released its first collection of sneakers designed entirely by a team of 14 women. There are also signs that Crocs, Tevas, Uggs and Birkenstocks — all known for being comfortable, if less than attractive — are making a comeback.

As for Powers, the marketing director in Los Angeles, she now has just one pair of heels — "very modest" black pumps — left in her closet. She has given away the rest and, instead, stocked up on the shoes she likes to wear: a dozen pairs of sneakers and at least 25 pairs of flats.

"I am never going back," she said. "As soon as I stopped wearing high heels, it was a taste of sweet freedom."

Friday, January 26, 2018

The real reason men find high heels attractive?

It might make women think twice before putting on high heels for a date.

Men find the shoes attractive not because they are glamorous or give the illusion of longer legs but because they make a woman arch her back – which is a signal that she is ready for sex, a study suggests.

It seems to be not the stilettos or kitten heels which are important, but the angle of a woman's back to her bottom.

The theory was tested by showing men photographs of women wearing heels or flats, but with the picture cropped at their ankles.

The closer their back arched to an optimum angle of 45 degrees, the more likely men were to find them attractive.

The authors, led by Dr David Lewis at Murdoch University in Australia, state that this arched back in high heels may communicate information about a woman's 'openness to mating advances'.

In many animals, arching of the lower back is a signal of sexual proceptivity – the tendency to engage in behaviour which instigates or 'promotes' sex.

The study states: 'Because no high-heeled shoes were present in any of the Study 2 stimuli, the current findings cannot be explained by an association between high-heeled footwear and perceptions of women's sexuality, a media-constructed preference for high-heeled shoes, or any other reason that men might have a preference for the shoes themselves.

For the same reason, hypotheses suggesting that high heels influence men's judgments of women because of the appearance or colour of the shoes cannot account for the current findings.'

The researchers recruited 56 women in tight clothing to be photographed in flat shoes, before providing five-inch heels for them to wear.

The photographs, cropping out the women's faces as well as their shoes, were shown to 82 men to be rated for attractiveness.

Two years ago the theory was first proposed that men were most attracted to women with a back curving exactly 45 degrees above the top of her bottom.

The findings provided an explanation for the sex symbol status of celebrities like Kim Kardashian and Jennifer Lopez, as 'buttock mass' was found to increase the angle.

The latest study supports this theory, with men finding women in heels most attractive when they were closest to the 45-degree angle.

The researchers also found men were more attracted to female celebrities when they were wearing heels, and that the shoes changed the arch of women's backs by approximately two degrees.
Explaining why this 'lumbar curvature' angle of 45 degrees is so important, the study states: 'Lumbar curvature may also communicate information about a woman's openness to matign advances – in other mammalian species, lordosis behaviour (i.e. arching of the lower back) is a sign of sexual proceptivity.'

The authors say celebrities, dressed up to enhance their appearance, may arch their back even more to look more beautiful in heels.

An arched back may also be attractive to men, as an evolutionary signal that women are fit for bearing their children, the researchers suggest.

During pregnancy, too much curvature of the spine would have been associated with risks like herniated discs, and not enough curvature would have been associated with muscle fatigue and injury.

The study is published in the journal Frontiers in Psychology.

Men fancy women in heels even when they cannot see the shoes, researchers found.