Friday, January 13, 2012

Best Buy of 2011 - or - How High Heels Saved My Feet

I tend to do a lot of walking on the weekends. Any given Saturday is guaranteed 2-4 hours of swap meet shopping and, on top of that, you never know when Hubs and I are going to take a walking tour of Koreatown, pop into a mall to browse before a $2 movie, or walk a mile or two to avoid random parking fees. With all this foot traffic in my life, I always figured that the pain, fatigue, and cramping in my arches and ankles was a given - after all, I always wore sensible, flat-to-low-heeled boots and sneakers. It doesn't get more comfortable than that, right?

One day in mid-2011, I browsed some online boot sales (as I am wont to do) and fell in love with the design of Dr. Martens' Marcie boot. The feminine twist on the classic combat boot made my heart patter, and reviews claimed that the boots ran narrow - great news for a gal who always found Docs much too wide! But the heel... 3.5 inches? My feet already hurt in flats.

I told myself I shouldn't get them. Be practical.

But I want them!

Take care of your feet.

But I love them!

Think of the pain.

Love hurts!

You already know I bought them. I wore them to the swap meet and on walks on the beach trails. And you know what? My arches ceased to cramp and spasm. My shins did not ache. My super tall, platform wedges were the most comfortable shoes I'd ever owned.

I bought another pair. Then I bought more boots in similar heel heights. I tromped all around town in all of these heels, making all my sensibly-shod friends gasp and wince and omigoshhowcanyouwearthosethings. I felt wonderful. I don't think I'll ever buy a heel under 3" high again.

I'm not posting this story to say, "Haha, heels don't hurt my feet! Naner naner!" I think there could be some science behind this. Maybe other people who are hurt by flat shoes can replicate this success.

It's more than just arch support, though that helps. I put on an old pair of flat boots the other day and marveled at how much work my feet had to do with each stride. My feet are pretty big for my stature - 8.5-9 on a 5'4" frame - and I felt like I was walking around in big, floppy clown shoes - or snow shoes - or flippers. Compared to walking in my heels, my arches had to invert way more to propel me forward, and my ankles had to contract way more to bring my foot around for the next step. Instead of normal, elegant footsteps, I had to lift each foot up in the air and clomp like a Clydesdale in order to keep from scraping my long toes along the pavement. Walking in flats, for me - with my long, feet, long toes, and short legs - was work. I actually tripped twice.

My heels, it seems, solve all those problems. Setting the foot at an incline decreases the amount of shoe that actually makes contact with the ground and reduces the needed amount of ankle action. Granted, I can't see the future; they may come a day when I'm punished for my altered posture with horrible back or hip problems. For now, though, I'm enjoying my new, blissfully pain-free gait.

If you're someone with large or otherwise cumbersome feet, and you sometimes have trouble with pain or... er... y'know, with walking correctly, then a higher heel might be worth a try.

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