By Margarita Nahapetyan
Young women who wear high-heeled shoes or pumps presently risk foot pain later in life, according to U.S. researchers at the Institute for Aging Research of Hebrew SeniorLife in a new study of older individuals and foot problems.
The study authors thoroughly analyzed data on 1,472 male and 1,900 female volunteers with the average age of 66 years. All the subjects were enrolled in the Framingham Foot Study between 2002 and 2008 and had completed foot examinations as part of the study. Of all the participants, 25 per cent said that they experienced generalized foot pain on most days - including 19 per cent of the men and 29 per cent of women.
For the study purposes, the participants were asked about pain, aching or stiffness in specific parts of the feet - the nails, forefoot, hindfoot, heel, arch, and ball of the foot. They were also asked to provide information on what type of shoes they wore at present time and most often during five stages of their life - between the ages of 20 and 29 years, 30 and 44 years, 45 and 64, 65 and 74, and 75 years and older.
Footwear was classified as:
Good - this included low-risk shoes, such as athletic and casual sneakers.
Average - mid-risk shoes, like hard- or rubber-soled shoes, special shoes and work boots.
Poor - high-risk footwear that do not provide support and sound structure, such as high-heeled shoes, pumps, sandals and slippers.
The results revealed that individuals who reported wearing unsupportive footwear early in life were much more likely to suffer from foot pain at a later time. Ladies who wore "good" shoes were 67 per cent less likely to suffer from hindfoot pain - pain in the heel area of the foot - when compared to those who reported wearing "average" type of shoes, the study found.
The experts saw that men did not experience the same type of foot pain as their female counterparts, particularly because of the type of shoes men wear. Researchers say the findings may help explain why women are much more likely than men to develop foot pain.
"While more research is needed, young women should make careful choices regarding their shoe type to avoid hindfoot pain later in life, or perform stretching exercises to alleviate the effect of high heels on foot pain," said a principal author of the study, researcher Alyssa B. Dufour, of the Boston University School of Public Health.
According to the experts, when people walk, a significant bio-mechanical shock is delivered to the foot each time the heel hits the ground. "Good" shoes like athletic footwear often have soles and other features that make this shock softer and protect the foot. The heel and ankle take the brunt of this shock, and this could be the reason why many women who wear high-heels and pumps often suffer pain in this part of the foot. According to Dufour, foot and toe symptoms are one of the top twenty reasons older individuals between the ages of 65 and 75 years old see a doctor. And while all of us just want to look our best, we must remember that there will be the consequences of what type of footwear we choose to wear, and not only currently, but also in the future.
The study is published in the October issue of the journal Arthritis Care & Research.