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Why you should ditch your high heels during your commute

Commuter shoes

In our nation’s big cities, seeing professional women jump on a subway or bus wearing sneakers is fairly commonplace. Here in Wichita, I seldom see women wearing athletic shoes with their business attire as they commute to work. These ladies look great in their high heels, but sometimes it makes my feet hurt just watching them.

I try and maintain appropriate professional attire but in recent years have decided to postpone foot fashion until I arrive at my desk. Every day I make the quarter-mile commute across the parking lot and up 48 steps wearing my running shoes, then don my work heels to start the work day.

I confess I sometimes feel frumpy and unprofessional en route, but on the upside, I haven’t fallen down and my feet never hurt. What’s more, my dress shoes rarely wear out.

In contrast to the structural foot support, comfort and safety that a good walking shoe typically provides, high heels can pose potential hazards and even long-term health concerns, according to Miki Matsuda, DPM, a podiatrist at Via Christ Clinic.

“Wearing heels causes an uneven distribution of weight across the sole of your feet and forces the toes into an unnatural shape in the shoes,” she says “This makes your body tilt forward. To compensate, you lean backwards, creating a posture that can strain your knees, hips and lower back.”

Additionally, she adds, wearing heels that are 2 inches or higher often causes the Achilles tendon (which connects the calf muscle to the heel bone) to shorten over time. This results in pain along the tendon or in the feet when you wear flat shoe or flip flop.

Common perils associated with high heels:

  • Falls and ankle injuries. High heels force the ankles to become the support and swivel point for the entire body – a task they were not designed for. What’s more, heels are typically not skid-proof. Falls and twisted ankles are common.
  • Foot pain. With all the body’s weight carried on the balls of the feet (and with little cushion), corns, calluses and pain result. Capsulitis, a painful inflammation of the joints where the toes attach to the foot, is a more serious condition.
  • Achilles tendon problems. Frequent wearing of high heels can cause the Achilles tendon to tighten, limiting mobility and sometimes causing tendonitis (painful inflammation of the tendon).
  • Joint pain. The knee absorbs the brunt of each step, which can lead to joint pain.
  • Lower back pain. Heels cause your pelvis to push forward when you walk or stand, placing pressure on the lower back.

Benefits of commuter shoes

Aside from helping people avoid pain and injury, commuting in athletic shoes has some practical benefits:

  • Saves wear on your other shoes, particularly on the heels. If you`re wearing them only for a few hours a day, they tend to last longer.
  • Makes walking easier – and safer.

So, while you might not look like a fashionista trekking through the parking lot, having a more comfort-conscious mindset on your travel footwear can pay off in the long run.