Science proves that my shoe addiction may damage more than my wallet

 

The New York Times recently published an article that was quite upsetting to me, as it confirmed everything I've been trying to deny about my beloved high heels, which I don daily despite my bunions.

Apparently, wearing pumps, stilettos and wedges on a regular basis can affect the way muscles and tendons work when walking, even when a high heel devotee switches to flats or sneakers. The author of the article spoke with three biomechanics specialists, all of whom confirmed that towering footwear has an effect on a person's gait.

One study that was conducted in Finland and published in The Journal of Applied Physiology found that a group of women with an average age of 25 who reported wearing high heels at least 40 hours per week had a tendency to use their leg muscles – rather than their tendons – when walking.

"Several studies have shown that optimal muscle-tendon efficiency [while walking] occurs when the muscle stays approximately the same length while the tendon lengthens. When the tendon lengthens, it stores elastic energy and later returns it when the foot pushes off the ground. Tendons are more effective springs than muscles," said Neil Cronin, a postdoctoral researcher, quoted by the news source.

The researchers observed this biomechanical feature in the heel-wearers whether they were wearing pumps or flats, suggesting that donning the towering footwear on a regular basis results in permanent, or at least semi-permanent gait alteration.

Another study that was conducted at the University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio revealed that walking in heels reduces movement in the ankles and increases the amount of work done by the hip flexor muscles. The study authors concluded that these factors may result in musculoskeletal pain for people who wear heels over a long period of time.

Excuse me while I grab my tissues. Thanks a lot for making me weep, science. But I suppose there's no denying it: High heels are not good for my hips, legs, ankles or feet. Previous studies have suggested that imbalanced biomechanics can lead to foot conditions like bunions or hammer toe.

Lucky for me, bunion splints and orthotics can help correct some of my wonky lower extremity biomechanics, allowing me to continue indulging in platforms and stilettos.

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Bunionella’s tips for staying fit

 

While it's true that I lead a rather hedonistic lifestyle chock full of Cosmos, chick flick marathons and decadent footwear, I know that disciplining oneself to stay in shape is important. Yes, exercise keeps the heart healthy and can stave off diabetes, but it also whips my butt into shape so that I can turn heads of men half my age – what could be better than that?

But don't expect to find me sweating it out on a treadmill wearing sweats and a ponytail anytime soon. No, darling, that is simply not how Bunionella rolls.

Years ago, a lightbulb went off in my head while watching an episode of MTV Cribs featuring Mariah Carey's fabulous abode. Fancy doesn't begin to describe the home, and her shoe closet was beyond words, but one other thing cemented the pop diva's place in my heart: The woman uses her stair machine while wearing heels! Brilliant. You know how your butt and the back of your thighs get sore after an evening of teetering around in pumps? Well, it's because walking in heels works muscle groups in your legs that stay relatively lazy when wearing flat shoes.

Mind you, this kind of exercise requires that I wear a bunion splint for several hours afterward, but I don't care. 

I'm also a pretty big fan of Zumba, the workout that feels more like dancing in a club. During a Zumba class, the instructor pumps high-energy Latin, international and hip-hop music while she goes berserk and attendees try to keep up with the fast-paced moves. I'll admit, sometimes I have no idea what's going on and just end up free-styling, but I still feel sweaty and sore at the end.

The pole-dancing-as-a-workout trend has also been a boon to my physical fitness. This is another exercise where I can don my Louboutins as I channel my inner stripper. (Lucky for me, this doesn't even require me to come up with a new name.)

I'd be lying if I said these exercises didn't leave my bunions aching at the end of the day. But easing the pain is simple: I strap on my bunion splints, pop an ibuprofen and kick my feet up to watch the latest Sex and the City movie. 

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Baring your bunions to do yoga is totally worth it

 

If you're like me, the thought of yoga probably puts a knot in your stomach as it requires going barefoot in front of fellow practitioners, some of whom happen to be very fine-looking men. A friend has been pestering me to attend a session with her lately, so I decided to look into whether the mind-body practice could actually help my bunions.

I came across an article in Yoga Journal about the feet and their connection to the rest of the body, and how yoga may be able to treat painful foot conditions.

According to the magazine, simply bringing consciousness to where you place your weight when you stand may be a revelation. If you notice a lot of pressure on the inner edges of your feet, this may be a sign of biomechanical imbalances that may lead to bunions.

Correcting foot problems through yoga may benefit the body as a whole, the journal reported.

"When you treat foot problems with yoga, you end up treating back pain, hip pain, all kinds of structural problems. Not only does it stretch out the muscles and lead to a greater range of motion, but it helps heal the root issue of inflammation as well," said holistic podiatrist Robert Kornfeld, quoted by the magazine.

I also found a Washington Post article in which the writer interviewed Timothy McCall, M.D., the author of Yoga as Medicine. The physician said that certain yoga poses provide a good stretch of the toes and metatarsal bones, which may help slow the progression of a bunion.

He described a pose wherein you stand with your feet a few inches apart then bring the bunioned foot forward about half a foot before turning it slightly inward. With the ball of the foot rooted on the ground, lift your heel slightly and rotate it inward before stepping down. This exercise may help keep bunions from progressing, but it probably won't cure the foot condition.

"If you have a bunion and you do yoga almost every day for the next several years, you will certainly feel better. But I don't think your bunion will be fixed," said McCall, quoted by the news source.

There you have it. I think I'll stick with my yoga practice, and not just because of the sculpted male yogis, but because it's good for my mind, body and feet. However, I won't be giving up my bunion splints or orthotics any time soon.
 

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Documentary explores the relationship between women and their shoes

 

Friday night is movie night for yours truly, and I recently had the pleasure of viewing a documentary called God Save My Shoes with my feet up and bunion splints strapped on. Now on DVD, the film features a number of footwear-obsessed celebrities and the designers that feed their expensive, bunion-inducing addictions.

The documentary delves much deeper into a woman's (or man's) relationship with shoes, touching on the mental, cultural and erotic significance held by a special pair of pumps or stilettos.

"When I started this film, little did I know I was actually going to explore the feminine condition, whether I looked at it from a psychological, historical or sexual angle. Now I just can’t slip into a shoe the same way I used to," said director Julie Benasra.

The directors traveled to New York, Los Angeles, Paris, Toronto, Milan and Florence to speak with people who have extreme shoe habits, fashion historians, magazine editors, psychologists, sex experts and people with shoe fetishes. The documentarians interviewed fashionable singers Fergie and Kelly Rowland, burlesque performer Dita Von Teese and designers Christian Louboutin, Manolo Blahnik, Walter Steiger, Pierre Hardy, Bruno Frisoni and Robert Clergerie.

God Save My Shoes also explores the role that footwear plays in popular culture, from Marilyn Monroe to Sex and the City, and gives a history of how high heels evolved from ancient times to the present.

The producers of the movie have teamed up with charity Soles4Souls, agreeing to donate $1 for each copy of DVD that is sold, which allows the nonprofit organization to provide a pair of shoes to an individual in need.

Interesting, entertaining and even titillating at moments, the documentary will do little good in helping you kick your addiction to high heels. If you're anything like me, you'll head straight to Zappos or Piperlime when you're finished to feed your habit.

Luckily, I have my Bunion Aid by Alpha Orthotics to keep my bony deformities in check while still enjoying the season's best in towering footwear. It doesn't hurt to slip a pair of orthotics inside each pair, either. These in-shoe devices add extra padding to soothe sore feet, as well as help distribute pressure on the foot evenly, which may help alleviate bunion pain.

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Pointy-toed heels are making a comeback on the red carpet

 

Awards season is upon us, and I'll have you know it's one of my favorite times of the year. There's nothing quite like strapping on my bunion splints, putting my feet up and kicking back with a Cosmo or three while I watch the stars walk the red carpet in the latest fashions.

If the recent People's Choice Awards and Golden Globes ceremonies are any indicator, pointy-toed heels are making a roaring comeback. (Better start using those bunion splints now, ladies.)

Stars kept it low-key yet elegant at the less-formal People's Choice Awards. One of my favorite looks was worn by actress Kristen Bell, who sported a red lacy top with fluttery sleeves and a matching A-line skirt that appeared to be leather. A simple look on its own, the ensemble was perfection with a pair of pointy Christian Louboutins that were nude patent leather with a metallic gold toe.

Miley Cyrus has been winning me over lately with her apparent eye for fashion, along with the fact that Party in the U.S.A. is no longer constantly streaming on the radio. She donned a cream-colored dress with sheer cutouts and a pleated panel on the front, and topped off the look with pointed Jimmy Choos in shiny fuchsia snakeskin.

Tilda Swinton is always a standout, both in terms of acting and her fashion sense. The eccentric actress wore a powder blue Haider Ackerman ensemble with a silky, structured jacket and simple bottom. She accessorized the look with intricate gold cuff bracelets and simple, slightly pointed gold heels.

Katharine McPhee was stunning in a nude, tea-length lacy dress by Donna Karan and matching nude patent leather pointed platform pumps.

These ladies looked gorgeous, no doubt. But I wouldn't be surprised if they developed bunions by the Academy Awards, which are scheduled for Feb. 26. I'll be looking forward to seeing who sports the pointy-toed looks at the Screen Actors Guild Awards (Jan. 29), the Independent Spirit Awards (Feb. 25) and, of course, the Oscars!

In the meantime, these actresses may want to consider using bunion splints or orthotics to help prevent or reduce the appearance of bony deformities like bunions or hammer toe. By choosing a conservative form of bunion correction, the leading ladies can be rid of their painful foot conditions without having to take time off for risky bunion surgery.

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Website compiles a list of the least foot-friendly shoes

 

From the bizarre to the downright torturous, Buzzfeed.com has made a list of shoes that make my bunions hurt just by looking at them. The news source features high fashion footwear from the likes of Alexander McQueen and Christian Louboutin, as well as shoes that look like they were crafted by an art student, never to be worn in a real-life situation.

Take, for instance, a pair of heels made only from wire, listed as number 10 on the website. They appear to be lacking soles, which will certainly give bunions ample room but leave much to be desired in the arch support department.

Pair number 12 is equally cringe-worthy. They look like they're made of metal, and are designed to look like tiny chairs for your feet. (The model is in serious need of a toenail trimming, by the way.)

Others, however, are bringing back memories of an old boyfriend who had a foot fetish. Namely, numbers three, four, six, 14, 20 and 25. Actually, he'd probably be pretty much into all of them.

Some of these shoes look like little works of art for your feet. Number seven is especially eye-catching if not un-wearable. They're like what a stripper from the Matrix would wear: black, shiny, sculptural and sky-high.

Then there are some that I would actually really love to own. Number nine is essentially a pretty, modern pair of peep-toe pumps sitting atop a geometric (wood?) block. I also wouldn't mind having number 15 sitting in my shoe closet, with their dramatic circular orange heel and sleek nude forefoot straps. I'd gladly give the 18th pair a home, too. Futuristic and retro at the same time, these shoes would surely make my bunions ache, but I imagine it would be well worth it.

Proving that there's a fine line between high fashion and the absurd, Vogue UK recently compiled a list of their editors' 100 favorite shoes.

The fashion magazine touts a pair of Bionda Castana boots with straps and buckles from toe to ankle, costing a mere $1,140. Right, so moving on!

Vogue UK also predicts a futuristic exotic stripper trend, apparently, as they're recommending a pair of platform metallic shoes with a thick heel and ankle strap from Topshop.

Are your bunions aching yet? If so, you may want to consider investing in conservative bunion treatment to counter not-so-conservative footwear. The Bunion Aid by Alpha Orthotics has given many fashionistas relief from the pain of their bony deformities, allowing them to continue indulging in outrageous footwear.

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Luxurious foot treatments may soothe bunions, get feet Louboutin-ready

 

Sky-high mules in jeweled, suede and metallic varieties marched down the spring 2012 runway recently, leading a New York Times blogger to become self-conscious about her ballet-beaten feet. Consequently, writer Chelsea Zalopany visited some of the Big Apple's most luxurious spas seeking treatment for her busted heels.

She spoke with specialists at Institute Beaute and Julien Farel Salon about their top recommendations to give their clients pretty feet – whether they have bunions, hammer toe or cracked heels.

At the first salon, Zalopany received a foot treatment complete with an exfoliating spray, an anti-inflammatory injection and some advice on how to take care of her feet. The podiatrist, Suzanne Levine, told the blogger to scrub her feet at home with a mixture of kosher salt, mineral oil and ground coffee, as well as take vitamin K regularly, which she said may help reduce bruising.

"If you take care of your feet, you can wear any type of shoe," Levine said, quoted by the news source.  "When you’re in your 20s, your feet don’t hurt and you can wear huge stilettos. It’s when you’re in your 30s that the deformities begin to show."

Next, Zalopany visited the Julien Farel Salon where she was advised to soak her feet in a seaweed bath, moisturize regularly and try reflexology, which may reduce stress in the feet and promote circulation.

While these treatments won't be curative for ladies with bunions or hammer toe, they may provide temporary pain relief or reduce the appearance of bony deformities by eliminating calloused or irritated skin.

Oprah – who everyone knows has pretty severe bunions – featured an article on her website providing instructions on making at-home foot baths to soothe feet and soften calluses.

The first homemade treatment is meant to provide a warming sensation to the feet. Begin by pouring hot water into a basin, making sure that the temperature is not scalding. Then, add a teaspoon of ground mustard seed, three or four drops of chamomile oil and some chamomile flowers to the water. Soak feet for about 20 minutes before drying and using a luxurious moisturizer.

The next soak can give a cooling effect to stressed bunions. Place flat, smooth stones – like those found at garden stores – in the bottom of a basin and fill it with lukewarm water. Add three or four drops of peppermint oil, a sliced lemon and a handful of torn mint leaves to the water before dipping feet in.
 

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Shoe manufacturers know about your bunions

 

It's something I like to refer to as Cinderella syndrome: when ladies squeeze their bunions into itty-bitty shoes in an effort to minimize the appearance of their perhaps larger-than-normal feet. It's a sneaky tactic, and one that can be painful and make conditions like bunions and hammer toe worse.

But the shoe companies may be one step ahead of you, as the Daily Mail recently reported that manufacturers are beginning to see the value in vanity sizing. (Don't pretend you don't know what vanity sizing is – You didn't actually think you were a dress size 4, did you?) It turns out that shoemakers have been secretly widening their shoes for years as the population gets fatter, according to the news source. 

"It is often just a fraction larger, but we need to do it to accommodate larger feet now," Jane Winkworth, founder of shoe company French Sole, told the Daily Mail. "It has to be very gradual of course, and we do not increase the sizes overnight. But I will often go to my shoemakers in Spain or France and tell them our customers are finding these ones a bit tight on what we call their 'bunion joints.'"

This means that you may be wrong in your insistence that your bunions are under control because you've been wearing the same size of the same brand for years. It's time to stop the denial and invest in some bunion splints, honey.

The American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons reports that wearing shoes that are too tight may make bunions or hammer toe worse, since the phalanges and forefoot end up squished into a tiny toe box. So, if you have an old pair of favorites that are becoming too small for your bunions, you'll need to fix that.

TheHairpin.com gives step-by-step instructions on how to make your teensy footwear fit like Cinderella's slipper using little more than a sealable bag of water and your freezer.

First, fill two bags halfway with water then seal them. Stick them in the forefoot of your shoes, and place them in the freezer. As the water becomes a solid, it expands, making room for your bunions. When you take them out, put them on for a few hours to let them warm and mold to your feet.

Another trick that may work if your shoes are made of synthetic materials is heating up the forefoot with a blow dryer before putting them on and letting the faux leather set to the shape of your feet. Be careful not to burn your bunions by testing the temperature of the shoes with the back of your hand.

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