Walking on high heels

2009 August 3
by Simba
Cinderella discovers the risk involved in dancing too wildly while wearing glass shoes

Cinderella discovers the risk involved in dancing too wildly while wearing glass shoes

Sure he was great, but don’t forget that Ginger Rogers did everything he did, backwards… and in high heels.

I had the pleasure of dancing with a woman in Buenos Aires who really knew how to operate her feet. She worked in television in her country, and was known as  ‘the woman that knows how to walk on high heels’. That skill she had developed on the tango dance floor. Whenever they needed someone classy walking around with high heels, they called her.

In Buenos Aires I suspect it to be the other way around. Women bring their skill in high heels to their first tango lesson. And that must be a great start in learning how to dance. It often amazes me how well dancers in Buenos Aires dance after a couple of years, compared with the very best dancers back home. Even after dancing for ten years, practicing a lot and taking hundreds and hundreds of lessons. When porteños walk into their first lesson, they already know the music. And they already know how to walk like a porteño (Duh!)

You see, sitting at a café, watching people walk by, or walking in the streets myself, I have noticed that women walking in the streets at home and in south of Europe and Buenos Aires walk very differently (The same goes for the men, but they are usually not in high heels). Shoes with high heels are much more common in the two latter places, and the women wearing them are much more likely to walk well, while the ones in Northern Europe and the US tend to stumble around. Like they are afraid the shoes are about to break into pieces. Well – maybe they are.

I came in as la princesa was catching up on the tv series ‘Sex & the City’ (If this were a wikipedia article, this would be the …in popular culture-section). It is a series where expensive designer stilettos played a major part if I understand it correctly, and I watched the main character walking, or rather not-falling, down some stairs and out on the street. I asked myself why she even bothered with the fancy shoes, when she didn’t know how to wear them. Doesn’t really look good when you cannot walk. According to la princesa, it wasn’t even the worst example.

The cat-like, smooth steps, on the other hand, are practical as well as beautiful, as the time of impact is stretched, reducing the forces at work at any given time.

Going directly from a life in flat shoes to long nights with Comme il faut in the milongas may indeed cause pain, both in feet/Achilles and back. This is true both for women and men (even without the Comme il fauts), but probably more for women. The shoes are called stilettos for a reason; they are dangerous.

I have thought of four things that may help you from getting hurt from dancing with stiletto heels (which may be necessary, but not necessarily sufficient):

  • The right technique
  • Shoes that fit
  • Strength
  • A good partner
  • I wish I could reveal the secret to the right technique walk in this post, but as you know, it’s not that simple. If you have been walking on them since you were… — well, younger, you know how to do it. If not, you have to catch up somehow. Just like with the music. You have put in the hours, and you have to walk the miles.

    Important things to work on are balance, placing the weight on the inside of the ball of the foot, actually walking on the heel when going forwards, pushing off with the grounded foot for each step and absorb the impact slowly when putting weight on the other foot. Using the muscles in the leg. And use the toes to spread out and support you. You have four joints to help you absorb the shock and push you into the next step. Toes/forefeet, ankles, knees and hips. Use all four in different amount, depending on how you like your tango. But then, rather than rely on a text on the internet, take some privates with someone really good. Then practice.

    Just as I was writing this, there was a report on the news that many women get orthopedic problems because they wear too small shoes. Make sure your shoes fit your foot, ladies! You need space for your toes to use them correctly, at the same time you need a shoe that sits firmly on. Quoting la princesa: It is like a good abrazo: Let the shoe give your foot an embrace that is firm and secure, yet allows your toes to move and your foot to ‘breathe’.

    Good technique alone is not enough, you also need to develop foot strength to enjoy long nights of tango in these exquisite stilettos. Unfortunately, that takes some time. I remember from my time as a rock climber that finger strength took a long time to develop, as there really aren’t much muscles in the fingers. They are in the underarm, and are rather small, hence it takes extra time to grow them stronger. The same is true for the foot, I believe, except the muscles are in the leg, of course…

    In earlier times they didn’t use special ‘tango shoes’, they would walk right in from the street into the milonga and start dancing (without changing shoes), many still do. Being used to walking in high heels also outside the milonga must really help building foot strength over time. By the way, some Argentine tango teachers told us that women (in tango) used to wear steeper shoes before, but that these are hard to find these days.

    You are not dancing alone, and whether you are able to walk well ultimately depends on the man’s skills as well. The woman needs to be able to move confidently by herself, and a good partner will give her that freedom. No guessing games. You might need to be more selective with dancing partners. If your partner is throwing you around, no amount of good technique or strength is going to help you in the long run.

    So are the high heels any good? Apart from that they look gorgeous, I have wondered if they offer any practical advantage. I am still not sure they do, but it definitely feels better dancing with a woman who knows how to walk in high heels when she’s wearing her Comme il fauts, compared with the same dancer in ‘tango sneakers’ ala Fabio shoes.

    I wonder if using low heels or flat shoes tempt to put down the free leg, thus working against being ready for next step? Walking (as in actually walking) backwards, they can make life easier by letting you put down your heel, preparing for the next back step. This depends on absolutely crystal clear lead from your partner and under no circumstances any feints. As I wrote above: no guessing games. I can’t really see how the woman is supposed to get more rest in flat shoes; then she never gets to put her weight down.

    High heels seem to have a bad reputation in killing women’s  feet. I am not sure how much is because of the inherent danger of the shoe itself, and how much is because of ‘wrong use’. Finding out is made more difficult by the selection bias, both with respect to who gets in trouble and goes to the doctor with foot pain (missing technique/wrong size etc overrepresented?), and who stays with the tango over time/life (those who don’t get into serious foot trouble?)

    Disclaimer: you might still get in trouble with your feet, maybe due to some unknown weakness that gets exposed after taking up dancing, even if you have a brilliant partner, excellent technique and strong feet. (But I think it is far less likely).

    Finally, a word from la princesa, who was kind to read over this before I  posted: walk with your high heels, not on them.

    24 Responses leave one →
    1. 2009 August 3

      Speaking for myself, I find that high heels make it easier to keep the balance in the right place of the foot, and that a shoe that fits properly is good for at least several hours of intense dancing – before hurting starts.

      But the skill and strength to keep your weight where it belongs is more important than the height of the heels. Whether they’re flat or 5″.

    2. 2009 August 4

      In my experience as a woman in high heels and as a teacher, a big part of what makes a woman walk and dance well in high heels is her ability to disassociate her upper body from lower body and roll her hips (naturally, not forced). Once I learned to let *all* the joints in my body do their thing, the high heel walk became more comfortable and sensual. Being too stiff all around does not make for good high-heel walking or tango dancing. A problem I see in north America quite a bit.
      Also, being strong in one’s core will help too. Posture, center of gravity, etc…

    3. 2009 August 4

      All very sensible. Personally I find it tricky to dance tango in shoes any lower than about 5cm, although I do wear lower ones for long workshops to reduce wear on the ball of the foot. I’m ok up to about 9cm, but because my main recurring technical fault is a tendency to lift my heels more than I should, and my main physical problem is wear and tear on the joint of the right big toe, I prefer to avoid shoes that are balanced very strongly forward and inwards as my CiFs are. I definitely dance best, at the moment, in shoes which are evenly balanced and have a slightly thicker heel of around 7 cm. That’s what minimises wear and tear for me. Oobashoo.co.uk do some very nice ones. All heels of course increase wear on the front of the foot.

      I absolutely agree that it is better to buy the half size big than the half size small. Too small is a very common problem with street heels but I don’t think people do it so much in dancing shoes as they have much better fastenings and don’t need to be tight.

    4. 2009 August 5
      Claudia permalink

      yes, I agree – all very sensible. I think I was suffering from a ‘how high is high’ thing before…I can’t really dance in flat shoes – again I’m with Ms. H on this…and I prefer mine to be around 7/8 cm – higher than that and the amount of weight on the balls of my foot makes my feet hurt much more quickly.

      I also find it easier to balance in my slightly broader heeled shoes than in my very thin stilettos…

      As for damage they do (to the wearer rather than other people) – I guess it depends on how much you wear them, the way your body works (hardly anybody’s works perfectly) etc. – I am sure that people who wear heels a lot in everyday life run the risk of their achilles tendon shortening – which is not a good thing…

      As for size – yeah, closed shoes that are too small are evil…I only wear open toed ones…and I prefer my toes to be sticking out over the front of the sole slightly to a bog bit of sole sticking out beyond my toes – if that makes sense…

    5. 2009 August 5

      Definitely an open-toed shoe girl, or at least peep toe. Just feels better! In I think looks better.

      I actually find that a lot of ladies wear dance shoes that aren’t snug *enough*. Dancing tango in shoes that are too loose can bring up some problems too. But it’s true that some people confused “snug” with “excruciatingly tight”, hehe….
      That said, I have always recommended that in dance shoes gals go SMALLER than their street shoe size – only because I seem to be surrounded by folks that really like shoes to be sensible and loose. Not good for Tango technique in my humble opinion.

    6. 2009 August 5

      I can’t believe I wrote “in” instead of “and”. Well, I guess I need more coffee. :-)

    7. 2009 August 5

      Sorry to rob the comment section, but I just have to say that after dancing tango so much, I almost don’t like wearing high heels OFF the dance floor, only because my dance shoes hug my feet so perfectly and beautifully that I feel disappointed when my street heels don’t. Yet, I still wear them… me and my heels. :-)

    8. 2009 August 5

      Thanks for commenting everybody, sorry I’m late to the party, but you all seem to get along anyway ;-)

      Good to see we aren’t that far off in the end.. I never intended on lecturing you ladies on how to do your walk (even if that would fit well with the academic tradition of telling people how to do stuff you never tried yourself…), it was more that this apparent difference in the walk got me thinking. And after your comments, I found that I needed to be more accurate, so it helped me sort out a lot of things.

      I suppose the shoes have to be just right when it comes to size.

      When you try teaching others how to dance, you have to think about how both men and women in tango move, so it’s not that extraordinary (my interest in the subject). Otherwise I would just use my experience with my ‘french heels’ of about four cm and extrapolate

      @Tina: Good point about the stiffness and hips. Tan frío en el norte?

      And I think it shows that you are an experienced walker, kind of proves my point (or rather doesn’t disprove it, at least). As to street shoes being disappointing, a friend of ours just got herself a pair of Comme il faut, she is a high heeled girl, but not a tango dancer. We joked that it would be funny if she took up tango, then she would be the first beginner to show up with Comme il faut shoes on her first lesson…

      @Claudia: Glad you mentioned the open toe. Good for using your feet, but exposes you to damage from other dancers, including your partner…

    9. 2009 August 8
      Claudia permalink

      To be honest….you just need to choose who you dance with ;-). I have done most of the damage myself…Adornos…big toe nails anyone???

    10. 2009 August 12

      Ok you officially inspired me: http://tinatangos.com/blog/workshop-heels/

    11. 2009 August 15

      Sweet! Good luck with your workshop!

    12. 2010 December 28

      Hey all!

      Fine… high heels look sexy, they may even better for dancing Tango. And yes, the mastery of this instruments depends on a good technique, practice, the fitting of the shoe and of course the technique of your partner. Yep. And men do tend to invite the women with the high heels, as stilettos seem to equal “good dancer”. All excellent reasons to wear them! :-)

      But let’s not kid ourselves: human feet were not made for being squeezed into shoes with 10 cm heels. They will start hurting after a while. And if you wear them too often, you are likely to get massive problems like a Hallux Valgus. Please just look at the feet of most professional dancers: lots of them are malformed and ruined.

      I wanna keep my pretty and healthy feet and this is why I wear high heels exclusively when I dance at Milongas. Never in class, never in real life. And I would definetely never force women to wear them in class, like many other teachers do for the sake of elegance.

      This is not coming from a feminist or wearer of Birkenstocks. I like to dress up, to attract men and to be perceived as elegant. But health is more important than elegance. For me.

      And this is why I chose the profile picture on my blog very carefully:
      http://melinas-two-cent.blogspot.com/

      ;-)

      Furthermore there’s one tiny aspect in the initial post I wanna comment on:
      “I wonder if using low heels or flat shoes tempt to put down the free leg, thus working against being ready for next step.”
      I am not so sure about what you mean by putting down the free leg. If you mean, “shift weight to this leg”, you are defineteley right.
      But if you are of the opinion, that the “free leg” should be free of contact to the floor and held above it, I will have to differ. Your free leg will usually be as long as the supporting leg, this is why it should be touching the floor – falling onto it with it’s own weight. If you hold it above floor, it becomes a “controlled” leg, that cannot swing freely with your gravity center. And thus it becomes less leadable.
      In most of my classes, I have to deal with women, who place their free leg into an elegant holding position above floor ready to be projected away from the man into a maximum stretched position. Wow, is it hard to even lead a basic shift of weight onto this leg!
      But of course there are different approaches to Tango technique. My technique is based on the idea of absolute improvisation and relaxation as opposed to focusing on the elegance.
      Excuse my lecture, but this it just something that bugs me so much in my everyday life…. ;-)

      Have a good day.

      Melina

    13. 2010 December 28

      Hi Melina, thanks for your comment,

      We do a lot of things that our bodies were not ‘made for’, so I don’t buy that argument. Most of the studies and advice I have seen seem to confuse or mix high heels and too small shoes, and parts of your comment seems to do the same (squeezed into). I am trying to take a nuanced approach. Starting to wear high heels all the time after your first tango lesson will probably give you trouble with your feet if you never used them before. With proper technique, strenght and fitting shoes, I am not so sure.

      I see that I could be more precise about the free leg, what I wrote ‘put down’, I meant putting weight on the free leg, something you see often with dancers that have a balance problem.

    14. 2010 December 29

      Nope. Not mixing arguments up, just not being able to find the real word in English. I really believe that high heels (not matter how good the shoe fits) will have a negative affect of the health foot. The deformed feet of most professional dancers, who all have the perfect technique, practice and spend lots of money for the ideal shoe prove it for me. ;-)
      And believe me: I am not a beginner and I am am practised in wearing high heels. I wore high heels since I was 12, I am dancing Tango since 1995, my technique is not so super bad and I even found my ideal brand. I am small and not slim, so I look like an idiot with flat shoes, especially when surrounded by all my students in high heels. But I avoid wearing them whenever I can. ;-)

    15. 2010 December 29

      Well, that is exactly where I remain unconvinced. Despite that fact, it seems we are mostly in agreement. Listening to your body and take a rest if your feet hurt is good advice, and that is precisely what professionals can’t allow themselves, so I don’t think you should read too much into that. Professional athletes get health problems all the time, it doesn’t follow that one should not exercise. It is clear that high heels stress the foot more, but it doesn’t follow that it will necessarily lead to injury.

      Tango is (still) mostly a social dance, and I believe it is better to teach women how to wear their heels than telling them to avoid them altogether. One ‘secret trick’ is to avoid walking or standing so much/long when wearing them. Arriving dressed in heels directly from a taxi is one image that comes to mind. Keeping the illusion up, while staying elegant and sexy (or whatever you want to call it). Isn’t it more difficult to teach your students proper high heels technique without wearing them yourself?

    16. 2010 December 30

      I wear high heels. In Milongas.

      I do not wear high heels in classes, because I don’t teach how to wear high heels. I teach how to dance Tango. For us, the basic technique is the same, whether you are male or female and not matter which kind of shoes you wear. But this is not a discussion, I want to get into now. Ask our students, if it works out or not.

      And: For me, Tango is not an illusion. It’s connection. When I dance with a man, he will not be able to see my shoes, but to feel my embrace. This is what matters for me.

      Another thing: Yes, it helps, not to move too much at a Milonga. Definetely, because I practise this. I avoid climbing stairs, I let Detlef get the drinks. I don’t stand up to walk to another table… But is this really a solution? Do you what to tell women that everything’s fine, if they just sit still and wait for the next dance? Please do think about the implications.

      I am not a hardcore feminist – but it is discussions like these, that might turn me into one.

      As for the pro’s and contra’s of high heels: I suggest, that you start wearing them in classes and Milongas for – let’s say a year. And then let’s talk about it again. ;-)

      So, that’s definetely my last post on that topic. So if you wanna discuss it with me some more, write me directly.

      Best,

      M.

    17. 2010 December 30

      Let me get this straight… You revive a one and a half year old discussion with an attitude, and when you run out of arguments, you don’t want to discuss anymore, threaten to become a feminist and ask me to write you privately?

      Nice.

    18. 2011 January 6

      No need to attack me now!

      I actually did not notice, that the discussion was so old. I am sorry, because then, I would not have commented on it…

      As for stopping the public discussion: I indeed think I made my final arguments in this last post. Further discussion would contribute little that could be interesting to the public. From there on, it is just political and philosophical differences, that go much farther than Tango and thus might not be interesting for the rest of the community.
      This is why I suggested, we might discuss in private.

      I’d also like to say: I do not threaten. I think, that all my posts kept a respectful and friendly tone. If you’ve got another impression, I’m sorry. I will not comment again.

    19. 2011 January 10

      I’m sorry I was so cross.

      My understanding is that our main disagreement is in terms of whether wearing high heels necessarily leads to injury and whether technique and the other factors I listed can reduce the risk of injury. You did not provide further arguments to support your case, yet you keep arguing as if it were an indisputable fact.

      What really ticked me off, though, was the following attempt to discredit me: “I suggest, that you start wearing them in classes and Milongas for – let’s say a year. And then let’s talk about it again.” before you unilaterally decided to withdraw from the discussion. That’s not fair play, and I will not participate in that kind of discussion. Smiley or not.

      It would actually be helpful if you clarified your position, it is not clear to me why it is ok for you to save your feet, but I have to ‘consider the implications’ for agreeing with that strategy and suggesting it may be a good idea to take a taxi to the milonga instead of walking on high heels. That was where the illusion came into this, nobody needs to see how long you walked or not, contributing to the illusion of effortlessness that may or not matter to you. I don’t think it is very important in this discussion anyway.

      I never claimed there is no risk involved in wearing high heels, but I suspect that the dangers are generally overstated.

      As I wrote in my second reply to you, I though we were mostly in agreement, yet we keep on arguing. If your objections to wearing high heels are on other grounds, being up front about it would ease the discussion and quite possibly make it much more interesting. Maybe it could also explain your repeated references to your being or not being a feminist. Hard core or not.

    20. 2012 January 8

      Hi Simba!

      I’d like to add a few points to this discussion. I dance for hours every day here in Buenos Aires, where I live — at milongas, classes and practice sessions. These are my thoughts — they are not meant to be prescriptive, just a description of how I experience the heels issue.

      I find, personally, that my feet feel much more relaxed in open-toed sandals. I also haven’t seen anyone dancing in closed-toe heels for a long, long time (and I do enjoy looking at other women’s pretty shoes).

      In general, I much prefer to wear high heels to follow. I also like to put on my very highest heels (10cm and very skinny) quite frequently to do solo technique exercises, as they offer an additional challenge when it comes to balance (I also know a couple of male professional dancers who wear high heels for technique practice sometimes for the same reason: after being able to balance in the heels, they feel *extra* stable and grounded when doing the same moves in flat shoes).

      At the milonga, I frequently wear skinny 8.5cm heels (I prefer shoes from the brands Alanis and Greta Flora, which fit my particular feet best). But, when practising with a partner, I prefer to put on 5 or 6cm heels. And I often wear those lower heels to the milonga too. I am a dancer and I need to spare my feet.

      I frequently do leading practice, swapping the lead back and forth with a female practice partner. As I definitely do not like to lead in heels and I don’t want to have to change my shoes back and forth all the time, I find myself following in my flat shoes (I like the soft leading shoes made for women which DNI are unfortunately no longer making — not their new rubber model — or Bloch split-sole trainers). Following in flat shoes in these situations definitely has some advantages, both in terms of sparing my feet and in terms of strengthening my feet, since I often have to rise onto the ball of the foot to follow when in the flat shoes.

      I am lucky in that I haven’t had problems with my feet. I do stretching exercises daily. And I also think my personal technique as a follower is rather foot friendly. It involves keeping my weight equally distributed over the ball and heel of my foot, with my centre of gravity over the arch of the foot (rather than having all my weight on the ball of the foot) and keeping my heels low to the ground or on the ground whenever possible (including during pivots, where the heels may not have as much weight, but are on the floor). Your technique as a follower may be different. Some teachers and dancers I admire teach a technique with weight over the ball of the foot, which can also work well for tango. I’m just describing what I personally dance and teach.

      I have to also agree with Melina. The most important thing is not how you look, but the health of your feet. If I am lucky enough to live to be 100 I still want to be dancing tango. And there can be no doubt in my mind that heels do put pressure on the foot, even if you are a very experienced dancer and heel-wearer with excellent tango technique.

      One minor point: you suggest arriving at the milonga by taxi. I find this a rather impractical solution, at least here in Buenos Aires where taxis are extremely expensive. I prefer to go to milongas (and return home afterwards) on foot, by bicycle or by bus, unless I can share a taxi with friends. And I know few people who have the finances to adopt your suggestion. But I don’t wear my tango heels to walk to the milonga. I wear the healthiest, most comfortable street sandals (or trainers in winter) I can find when I am not dancing tango. My feet need a break from the heels! I carry my heels in a pretty shoe bag and change into them when I get there. In any case, many women’s tango shoes have ‘cromo’ on the soles and are not designed for wearing outside.

      Finally, I would agree that it is better to get shoes that are slightly more fitted in terms of length than ones that are too long. But the shoe should definitely feel soft, flexible and comfortable right from the moment you try it on in the shop. And you may have to try a few different brands to find one that suits your individual foot shape, arch height, etc.

      Finally, I’d like to say something about your suggestion that Melina is employing ad hominem (ad feminam?) arguments. I do not believe in identity politics. I think it’s fine for men, including gay men, to have opinions on ‘women’s’ issues (such as abortion, for example). But I would advise caution here. Let me give you an example. I have very severe, debilitating period cramps. You can, of course, empathise. But as a man you cannot actually know how it feels (in fact, no one can know except for me and perhaps some other women who suffer similarly). So I would get a little angry if you were to tell me that my period pains are actually not that bad. Or that my period is not painful. You cannot feel it yourself. And the same goes for the heels. If women tell you that being in high heels for long stretches of time hurts their feet and you yourself have never spent long stretches of time in heels, I think it is inappropriate for you to counter their argument that it hurts with the answer “no, it doesn’t”. So, I agree with Melina: if you really want to know whether it hurts for some women or not, try it (high heels, not menstruation).

      Happy dancing!

    21. 2012 January 8

      Whoops! Two ‘finally’s. Sorry!

      And, at the risk of swamping your thread, I have a little more to say. When I am actually dancing in the follower’s role, I definitely feel more comfortable in heels than in flat shoes. But when you are teaching a class, you don’t spend all that much time actually dancing. A lot of the time is spent standing watching your students, or walking around to see different couples. To a lesser extent, this is true when you are taking a class, too. And during that standing around and walking time, it’s definitely more comfortable to be in flat shoes than heels. Even if you are a dancer, you cannot escape from the basic laws of physics.

      I also did a quick survey of the women out on the streets today. I did see some heels, especially on the older women, and more than in Europe, I grant you. But the vast majority of the women were in flip flops or some kind of flat or low-heeled sandal. This may be a matter of changing fashions, of course. But I’ve also seen plenty of professional dancers arrive at class or the milonga in flat shoes and change there. And I find it interesting that Gabriela Gonzalez chooses to wear special Comme Il Fauts with wedges instead of the usual high heel.

    22. 2012 January 10

      Thanks for interesting comments, Terpsichoral!

      Regarding the taxi issue, after the crisis in 2001/2002 taxis used to be very affordable to foreigners. It obviously depends on your budget, but even if you find it unaffordable, it would still be practical, no?

      I don’t think I wrote that I knew how women felt or that they did not feel pain wearing high heels, I certainly did not intend to. As you say yourself that is not possible, and does not really depend on me being male or female. I could wear high heels all day every day and still not know how you feel (For example, I could be fine and you not, or vice versa).

      To be clear, there is certainly more stress on the foot when wearing high heels. What I am wondering is if the risk of injury might be overstated due to sampling bias among other things, and that proper shoes, exercise and technique may mitigate a lot if not all of that risk.

      To use your example: Of course I don’t know your period pains, but I might still give advice on how to use pain killers in combination to relieve some of that pain. That could be good advice or not, but that does not depend on me having period pain or not. If, based on knowledge of pharmaceuticals, you find that it is bad advice, that should be the reason not to follow it, not my Y chromosome.

    23. 2012 January 10

      All totally valid points. But I still, personally, would not advocate walking all day in the street in high heels. And, frankly, in this heat, it seems impossible to imagine and I don’t see many people doing it…

    24. 2012 June 6
      Natalie permalink

      Gosh ‘m really late to this but a very healthy discussion on the whole and really interesting.

      Having danced in heels for many, many years now and having suffered on occasion from pain, particularly in the balls of the feet I was inspired to research the problem from a physical perspective and also a retail one!

      My own problems started when scar tissue began to form between my big toe and the one next to it. It developed because of a spreading effect that the pressure from wearing heels had on the balls of my feet, effectively ‘spreading’ the metatarsals. There are treatments available but I didn’t fancy any kind of invasive procedure and I’m glad I didn’t go down that road because I have found that a combination of regular icing, occasionally using an arch support in the shoe and generally better fitting shoes, has fixed it for me.

      The ‘spreading’ effect I have found has been largely alleviated by buying a shoe that has more lateral support. Flimsy strapping across the forefoot just doesn’t keep the foot in place and also loses shape quicker. I can’t agree that buying shoes on the large rather than small side is good advice. On the whole the shoe spreads with age anyway (pick up an old pair of your own and compare it with a new pair) but buying on the large side allows for ‘play’ of the foot within the shoe. I do think it’s worth trying on lots and lots of pairs to find the very best fit for your foot, regardless of style, because ultimately fit is key. It’s difficult given that many don’t have the option of trying on shoes because they are not widely stocked anywhere and we end up buying the ones we like the look of online. I always look for shoes made either in Europe or BA because they are just better made and the materials are better quality. For me CIF and Oobashoo produce the best quality shoes if you can find somewhere to try them.

      I often use an arch support in the shoe to alleviate pain in the balls of my feet and it really does work, even though it doesn’t actually reach the ball of the foot. I also regularly ice my feet after a night on the tiles as recommended by a podiatrist and my feet have been significantly better since.

      ..And in case you were wondering why I go through all the effort rather than just wear flatties? You will need to prise my heels from my cold, dead hands!

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