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When Style Harms Substance: Fashion and Female Foot Pain

Posted Jan 03 2013 6:29pm

The results from the Staffordshire University study aren’t going to shock folks at the next New York Fashion Week. Teenage girls are choosing their shoes based on style alone. As for function to go along with that beautiful form, those concerns were secondary. The problems is these choices are not changing later on in life. As women experience increased foot pain and deformity — much of it a result of fashion footwear — these choices didn’t get any better.

Is the Image All that Counts?

While it is understandable for someone to wear high-heeled or tight-fitting shoes for a special event, it’s against better judgment to wear heels every day of the week. You might look good in the short run, but major foot problems can develop later. For starters, feet deformed by wearing ill-fitting shoes are more prone to arthritis. The potential for experiencing a great deal of foot pain exists for everyone sucking up the pain to look good in shoes.

The Pressure Is Definitely On

You can’t turn on a television, pull up a website or fold open a newspaper without seeing glamour shots of the world’s most beautiful women. As a society, we have become obsessed with celebrities, many of whom represent an ideal of physical beauty that is difficult to match. Of course, without photo retouching, we’re not sure what they actually look like.

Nonetheless, we are fed this image of the ideal “cover girl” model and many young women feel inferior when they don’t try to meet that ideal. Without a look at the alternative and without a lot of coaching on the part of parents, you may be allowing them to sacrifice their feet later in life. If they aren’t sure about the consequences, forward them the right materials. A quick browse through the Staffordshire University paper will reveal plenty of scary insights.

More than Foot Pain Awaits

Research done in the past has linked foot problems to lower back pain and spinal troubles. Women who favor high-heeled shoes tend to experience these problems far more frequently than the rest of the population. In other words, it’s more than added foot pain you’re risking when you wear shoes on the basis of how they look; you’re also risking your posture and overall health. The more young women that know these facts, the more will opt for breaking up long runs wearing the high-fashion shoes.

The Simple Arithmetic of Shoe Shopping

Most surprising from the study findings was the revelation that many of he young women participating didn’t bother to try on the shoes at all. How could they know whether they caused screaming pain or had the highest potential for callouses? The fact is there was no way they could have known. The entire thought process was focused on the look of the shoes. No other concerns ever factored into the debate. Responding to the body’s acceptance or rejection of an item or clothing is always advisable. Too many health problems arise when we ignore the pain in our bodies. When it comes to shoe shopping, it’s often not even considered.

A Compromise is in Order

No one expects function to trump all fashion concerns. However, don’t forget to devote some care to your feet. When you’ve been wearing heels for days, give them a rest. Find a solution that produces no pain. If you are having trouble going through the motions, see your podiatrist and start treating your feet right before it’s too late.

Reference: DOI: 10.1177/1359105312463585
J Health Psychol published online 27 November 2012
Helen Branthwaite, Nachiappan Chockalingam, Marc Jones and Sarah Grogan
Footwear choices made by young women and their potential impact on foot health

Choosing Style Over Substance , The Top 3 Ways Wearing Shoes Harms Our Feet – And What We Can Do About It , Why Women Have More Foot, Knee, Hip, & Back Pain (and what you can do about it)
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