3D scan reveals how high heels can disfigure your feet

Like so many women, I love my high heels.

I adore how they add an extra three inches to my height making me look slimmer and longer.

With a fabulous pair of stilettos, I feel ready to take on the world.

In lockdown, I traded my heels for comfortable slippers and socks. But as we move towards normality again, my heels are returning.

Stars who stepped out in heels at this week’s Paris Fashion Week included designer Victoria Beckham, 47; actress Anya Taylor-Joy, 25; Supermodel Naomi Campbell, 51; and even heavily pregnant singer Rihanna, 34.

It was recently reported that Sarah Jessica Parker, 56, refused to take off her high heels for long 14-hour days while filming her Sex and the City spin-off And Just Like That.

Many of us take it for granted when it comes to looking stylish — although rocking on tiptoe is hardly known for being comfortable.

But what do stilettos really do to our health? I was the first journalist to try a 3D scanner at the London Foot and Ankle Center in the capital’s London Bridge Hospital.

Here I take a 360 degree view of the inside of my foot while wearing my favorite pair of heels, black stilettos with a pointed toe and a 4 inch heel.

It takes hundreds of pictures from different angles showing how wearing heels changes the structure of my feet.

3D of Tanith Carey's foot.
The first thing Carey noticed was that her shoes forced her feet into an unnatural position.
Tanith Carey

For the scan, all I had to do was step into the middle of the knee-high machine, which looks like a giant footbath. I stood still as a fixed camera whirred around me. So far I have always found my shoes elegant.

But when the chief surgeon Martin Klinke showed me the pictures, I realized that it wasn’t such a pretty sight from the inside.

The first thing I noticed was how my shoes were forcing my feet into an unnatural position.

Tanith Carey wears heels.
Carey became the first journalist to try out a 3D scanner at the London Foot and Ankle Center in the capital’s London Bridge Hospital.
Tanith Carey

I found they fit my size 7 perfectly. I was shocked to see them claw my toes.

All are now bent at the ankle, making my front foot look like a free-roaming giant spider.

Mr. Klinke said: “With high heels with narrow tips, the toes are not only crushed but also scratched.

“The toe joints are forced into an angle of up to 90 degrees.”

Wearing a lot of heels can lead to “hammer toes,” where the joints get stuck and the tendons contract and tighten, causing the toes to look permanently bent.

My shoes also push my big toe inward, exposing the joint at the bottom and protruding. Over time these could develop into bony bumps or bunions, especially if I already have a genetic predisposition to them.

The scan showed how my high heels made my feet less stable, changing the angle of my metatarsals — the five long bones in the foot — from 20 degrees to an unhealthy 80 degrees.

While a 1-inch heel is estimated to put 22 percent more pressure on the ball of the foot than a flat shoe, wearing 3-inch heels will increase it by 75 percent.

Herr Klinke said: “There is so much pressure going into the small part of your forefoot.

I adore how they add an extra three inches to my height making me look slimmer and longer. With a fabulous pair of stilettos, I feel ready to take on the world.

Tanith Carey

“This leads to tension in the calf muscles and then, with ‘normal’ flat shoes, to overloading – and pain in the balls of the feet.”

So do I have to do without my beloved high heels for the sake of my foot health?

Herr Klinke says: “It’s okay to wear them to an event or a party, but not really a good idea to wear them on a daily basis. Wearing a small heel — say, an inch — is fine, but it’s better if it’s a wider, more stable type with a wider toe box that doesn’t pinch the toes as much.”

I won’t give them up entirely – but I WILL save my killer heels for special occasions while I keep a pair of emergency flats in my bag.

Here are some of the risks of wearing high heels:

  • FOOT PAIN: High heels shift your body weight forward onto the balls of your feet. This puts stress on your metatarsal bones. There are also two pea-shaped bones just under the base of each big toe that help the foot push off with each step. Wearing heels can inflame the nerves and tissues around these bones, causing shooting pain in the foot, a condition known as metatarsalgia. Fibrous tissue can grow around the nerves, usually between the third and fourth toes. Called Morton’s neuroma, it feels like having a pebble in your shoe.
  • NARROW CALFERS: Over time, walking with your feet elevated can cause muscle fibers to shorten and thicken. So when you wear flat shoes, your calves feel tight and uncomfortable.
  • bales: These occur when your feet are often forced into narrow, pointy shoes. The joint at the base of the big toe protrudes, making walking difficult.
  • HAMMERTOES: When you stand on heels, the weight of your body presses down on the end of the shoe, forcing your toes to arch up and claw. Over time, the tendons in these toes can shorten and the joints can become stiff. You cannot straighten them even if you take off your heels.
  • ANKLE INJURY: Changing your center of gravity can cause your ankles to become unsteady and less flexible. The higher the heel, the greater the risk of losing balance and rolling onto the outside of the foot. This can stretch the ligaments of the ankle. A fall while wearing high heels is more likely to tear ligaments or even break bones.
  • Corns and calluses: When your foot is forced into an unnatural position, you are more likely to develop thick, hardened layers of skin where shoes rub against your foot.
  • Ingrown toenails: High heels tend to wedge your toes tightly together in the end of the shoe. When you meet this resistance, the toenails can thicken or grow into the skin.
  • PLANTAR FASCIITIS: The way high heels tighten calf muscles can have a domino effect on your plantar fascia, the thick band of connective tissue that runs along the bottom of each foot to your heel. This layer can tear or become inflamed, with painful consequences.

This story originally appeared on The sun and is reproduced here with permission. 3D scan reveals how high heels can disfigure your feet


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