This Designer Trend May Put Chiropractors Out Of Business

The side-effects of stilettos are worse than we thought. Cue sneaker season. 

When we think of Badgley Mischka, we think of ball gowns and pure red carpet glamour — not necessarily Vans-esque slip-on sneakers. But Van look-alikes are exactly what the fashion house sent down the runway for New York Fashion Week, pairing elegant day dresses with jewel-embellished slip-on kicks. If brands like Badgley Mischka are getting into the sneaker game, it's a sign that something's up.

Meanwhile, Nike is partnering with high-end designers like Comme des Garçons and outgoing Givenchy designer Riccardo Tisci to create luxury versions of Nike’s classic Dunks.Between fashion editors’ obsession over everything Nike and Adidas, the frenzy for Kanye’s Yeezy sneakers, and Isabel Marant’s trendy spin on classic white court shoes, sneakers have never been more stylish.

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Even podiatrists on Rodeo Drive have noticed patients embracing sneakers (although old stiletto habits die hard). “Heels are still going strong in Beverly Hills and around the world, something that will never change,” Dr. Bobby Pourziaee of Rodeo Drive Podiatry & The Spa On Rodeo (aka The High Heel Doc) told The Lookbook.

"I do think women are more conscious about the effects of heels on their feet and overall health due to increased awareness," he continued. "A lot of my women patients are focusing more on moderating between heels and sneakers, always having a pair in their purse to switch out of at any given moment. I have actually spun next to Victoria [Beckham] at SoulCycle and we have chatted about her back pain and how it relates to her wearing high heels.”

In podiatrist and author Dr. Emily Splichal’s Wall Street office, she’s noticed that least two thirds of her female patients are wearing stylish flats and sneakers compared to high heels, and if they do wear heels, it’s only around the office—or for a girl's night out.

“I think this shift is not so much related to people suddenly realizing how bad high heels are for the body but more related to the fact that footwear companies are finally bringing the fashion element to sneakers and casual kicks,” Dr. Splichal told The Lookbook. “This coupled with the increasing trend in athleisure and casual chic apparel makes it now more 'in trend' to be in stylish sneakers with leggings and a sweater.”

The rise of designer-approved sneakers is a very good thing for our feet (and lower back and calves), because some horrific things can happen if you wear heels all the time. Let's dive in:

What can happen to your body if you overdose on wearing heels?

Those work-of-art stilettos can lead to some scary side effects. “High heels put excess stress to the lower back, knees and feet, which can lead to premature arthritis or joint degeneration. Some of the most common foot issues are bunions, hammertoes, plantar fasciitis, and painful corns/calluses,” Dr. Splichal says.

Dr. Pourziaee called out those issues and others like shortened calf muscles from your heel hovering off the ground and foot numbness since your body weight is concentrated on the balls of the feet.

Ortho-bionomist Gary Williams, who’s earned the name “The Toe Whisperer” for his work with runway models, breaks it down this way. “Do you realize the fact that the biggest part of your foot and the most impact-resistant part of your foot is your heel? That's the toughest bone in your foot. You have 26 bones in your foot, and that's the biggest, thickest bone in your foot. What are you going to do? You're going to take that bone that's an impact-resistant surface and balance on the head of a pin.”

Your HIIT workout schedule isn’t helping matters. At City Podiatry in Manhattan, Dr. Jacqueline Sutera’s patients are constantly on the go, spending all day in heels and then putting on sneakers to hit the gym.

“That combination of wearing heels throughout the day and taking your heels off and slamming your feet at night running, or all these high-impact classes that are very popular right now, that combination sometimes leads to injuries such as stress fractures, tendinitis, heel pain issues, pinched nerves, I can go on and on,” she says. “These girls are busy, they don’t want to give up their heels, and they don’t want to give up their workouts.”

There are exercises you can do to keep wearing your heels. To strengthen the muscles in your foot, Dr. Pourziaee has his patients practice picking up a paper towel off the floor with their toes, three times a day for 30 seconds each. He also advocates stretching the calf muscle and the large ligament along the bottom of the foot by placing an exercise band along your forefoot and pulling your foot toward you, with your knee strength.

Dr. Splichal wrote a book with “Stiletto Recovery” exercises that you can do after you take your heels off at night, including rolling a golf ball along the bottom of your foot.

But when The Lookbook asked Gary Williams if he had any tips on how heel-wearers can avoid injury, he was quite blunt. “Yeah, take them off," he said. "You use your body badly, you will pay the price eventually."

Vary up your heel height throughout the day and week. Sneakers for commuting are a must, according to the podiatrists, and Dr. Sutera advises her patients not to wear the same heel height or same type of shoe every day. “If you wear a three-inch pump to work on Monday, then the next day maybe you should wear some type of flat shoe or a boot or a wedge,” she says. The American Podiatric Medical Association also has a list of shoes that earned its seal of approval for good foot health.

Not all sneakers are created equal. Just because it’s a sneaker doesn’t necessarily mean it’s good for your feet. “Everyone thinks ‘Oh well, it's not a high heel so it must be good for me.’ There is such a thing as too flat, and when you walk around in shoes that are also too thin and too flat and too flimsy, whether it's a sneaker, or ballerina or flip flop, all those are considered bad shoes and to be worn really in moderation," Dr. Sutera says. If you look inside a fashion-y sneaker and see there’s no arch support or barely any cushioning, Dr. Sutera recommends popping in an arch support insert or even a custom orthotic.

It’s dangerous to wear your sneakers into the ground. “I think a big mistake that not just women but everyone makes a lot is that we wear our shoes for too long,” Dr. Sutera says.

If the sole of a sneaker or shoe gets worn down, that can force you to walk at a weird angle and cause problems like stress fractures, tendinitis, and inflammation pain. Here’s some good news: we’re going to take this as doctor’s orders to go out and buy new shoes, ASAP.

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