If you would never subject yourself to balancing on a small pair of stilts at a 30° angle in the name of vanity, this ain’t about you. To all my masochistic friends out there, you KNOW what I’m talking about: You walked to shul, stood through the amida, and graciously hosted an 18- course Shabbat meal in your best three-inch heels, or perhaps you arranged three carpools and a business deal all while teetering around on those stilettos for two hours at the shmorg of a recent event. Whatever the case, there you are the next morning with a body that can’t figure out why it feels like you spent the last 12 hours at the gym with nary a pair of sneakers in sight. You can’t move; you are suffering from high-heel hangover. You then promise your aching feet and sore calves that you will never do this to them again, but alas, you know it is a lie.
Here are some techniques to help cope with those aching gams, and strategies to prevent some of those muscle aches next time around.
Choose your weapons wisely
1) Make sure they fit. Isn’t it ironic how they only have the ones you really want on the sale rack just a half size too small/big? Make sure your toes have room to move in them. Buy them only if they fit when you actually walk in them.
2) Test the shoes to see if they are balanced. Stand the shoe up on the floor and make sure the sole lies flat on the floor. If it rocks even before you put your foot in it, chances are it won’t be any more balanced when you wear it.
3) The thinner the shoe’s heel, the harder they will be on your feet. Wedges are perhaps the easiest to walk in, as they have the most surface area. Thick-heeled pumps come in a close second.
4) When choosing a pointy-toed shoe, make sure your toes end before the toe starts to narrow to avoid compression of your toes.
Walk this way
The way you move when you are wearing your heels will affect how your body is going to feel after the fact. It pays to learn how to walk in heels correctly, particularly if you’d prefer not to look like you’re playing dress up in grown-up shoes.
Do walk heel to toe, placing the heel down first, with your toes following.
Don’t walk toe to heel, or take steps by putting your whole foot down at same time flat footed.
Do walk with your shoulders back, and your chin up.
Don’t look down at your feet as you walk.
Do look ahead about 1/3 of a block when walking.
Don’t over-extend yourself by taking big steps.
Do improve your balance by reducing your stride length by taking smaller steps.
Do practice walking with one foot in front of the other on a straight line on the ground, allowing your hips to sway naturally from side to side as you shift your weight from one foot to the other.
When negotiating challenging surfaces, the above rules change. If you find yourself walking on grass, put your weight on your toes, or you will sink, not to mention ruin your heels. Walking upstairs can be a challenge; for optimal balance, put your weight on your toes, like you are tip toeing. Upon descending, plant your whole foot on the step at once while holding onto the rail for dear life.
Your calf muscles work harder when you wear heels, and your Achilles tendon gets tight and shortened. For this reason, good stretching techniques should be practiced the day after wear to both lengthen your tight muscles and increase blood flow to the area. To avoid injury and to maximize the benefit of your stretch, only stretch muscles when they are warm. Stretching after activity or bathing works best. Try these techniques:
1) Stand in bare feet; keeping your knees straight, bend down and reach toward your toes. Hold this position for at least 20 seconds. For all you yogis out there, a downward-facing dog pose will work nicely to achieve this stretch.
2) While sitting, extend at your knee, and try to write the alphabet in the air with pointed toes.
3) Stand in bare feet, holding onto the back of a chair. Place a tennis ball under the arch of one of your feet. While stepping down on the ball, roll it under your foot to release tightness in the muscles of your foot. Try this for two minutes on each foot.
4) Sitting cross-legged on the floor, interlace the fingers of your right hand in between the toes of your left foot. With the palm of your hand facing the sole of your foot, spread your fingers and gently stretch the spaces between your toes. Hold this stretch for 20–30 seconds. Repeat this activity on the other side.
Finally, take a high-heel vacation. The day after wearing heels, try to walk barefoot when possible (and safe) and wear sneakers that have a comfortable, flexible sole. This will allow the muscles in your feet to recover. Make sure to moisturize your feet, as prolonged heel wearing may cause patches of dry skin. Use this opportunity to massage the arches of your feet, or better yet, get someone else to massage them for you.
Keep strut’n along ladies, ‘til next time...
Rivki Chudnoff PT, MSPT is a NY/ NJ licensed physical therapist with over 14 years of experience working in both pediatrics and women’s health rehabilitation. Her practice addresses the needs of women in areas related to pelvic pain, sexual dysfunction, prenatal and postpartum related pain, and incontinence. Rivki currently resides in Bergenfield with her husband and their children. She can be reached at [email protected]
By Rivki Chudnoff PT, MSPT