Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Ay! My High-Heel Wearing Days Are Catching Up with Me!

One telltale sign you're getting older: aches and pains. You think of stuff you used to do for hours on end without consequences, but then things change. For me, "stuff" included wearing high heels. It's now to the point where 5" heels are actually very comfy for me. This is supposed to be good, right? Stilettos are sexy, after all.

No, it's not good. I'm now suffering the consequences of my behavior. One day a couple of weeks ago, I woke up with a huge pain in my right foot. It lingered for a while, the pain waxing and waning. I decided to ask my friend JA about it. He's a physical therapist and athletic trainer. He rubbed on the bottom of my foot, and I felt like smacking him! This used to feel good whenever it was done at the nail salon, but it didn't this time. Then he asked me to move my ankles, and boy did that hurt! Then he said something I knew all along, and it suddenly made sense. He said, "The gastroc inserts right here. You probably have a sprain in there". He pointed to the back of my leg, right where my Achilles tendon was.

picture of the gastrocnemius muscle to the right taken from wikipedia.com

JA was referring to the gastrocnemius muscle, that big beefy one in the back of your leg. The gastroc's job is to bend your foot so that your toes are on the ground, but your heel comes off it. What is that you do that causes this to happen? Put on a pair of high heels. The higher your heel, the more your gastroc has to work. And if you're wearing them for hours and hours, your gastroc works overtime and revolts by becoming inflamed. And if you're wearing heels day after day for hours at a time, you may get to a point where this position becomes comfy for you, more so than standing with your entire foot on the ground. It's not a good thing. That means you've got major contractions, and when you do need to have your foot on the ground, you'll find it hard to put it there because the tibialis anterior muscle, responsible for bringing the back of your foot onto the ground, is so overpowered by the gastrocnemius. This is what happened to me. Due to the nature of my work, I wear sneakers, but that was getting painful for me. Even though I was actually spending more time in flat shoes than heels, the heel-above-the-ground position is not mechanically correct, so the ratio of time spent in heels to time spent with the entire foot on the ground should be REALLY small. So even wearing heels for a few hours each weekend can become a real problem.

I knew all that. I just didn't think I'd have to worry about it so early in my
life. Sigh...

calf stretches, pic taken from the Mayo Clinic website

Does that mean I'll stop wearing heels? Hell no! At least not right now. Maybe in a couple of decades. I'll just be sure to not wear them anywhere where I won't have a chance to sit and kick off my shoes after a half hour. And of course, I'll do my calf stretches.


erin said...

it's really scary to think about potential damage we may be doing to our bodies for the love of heels! i've definitely read podiatrists recommending varying the heel heights worn daily to prevent the shortening of the tendons from heels. i try to vary mine and stretch my calves/feet to keep them in okay shape!

The Drama Queen said...

Good for you! And you wear your heels so well.