As a woman living in New York City, I am no stranger to the importance of fashion. More importantly I have come to realize that no outfit is complete without the shoe that gives it that “WOW” factor. Walking down several neighborhoods in Manhattan, I am surrounded by high end boutiques and luxury shops displaying strappy Guccis, black Manolos, Alexander McQueens and Christian Louboutin’s red soled wonders. I can’t help to think of how I want to walk the rest of my journey in each and every pair.
I then walk into my office and see a waiting room with women who have the same aspirations as I do. They are eager to wear the next “it” pair, all the while not having pain, displaying exquisitely pedicured feet and wearing the perfect size 37 ALL without the hint of a foot deformation.
In school and during residency, I was educated on the importance of pain and surgery. “Foot surgery should only be performed if the patient is having severe pain” was the rule to be followed. However, now being out in private practice, I have come to realize that physical pain is not the only pain that should concern me as a doctor. I now know that emotional and psychological pain very often, if not always, trumps physical pain.
As a woman, I have seen what the right pair of shoes can do to my own self-esteem. Barefoot, I stand at a whopping 5’3” (on a good day), and when I walk into a meeting I see the difference wearing a high heel has on my posture, poise and confidence.
Of course as a doctor it would be bad medicine if I didn’t discuss the repercussions that high heels can have on our bodies.
Let’s start at examining our forefoot (the area at the toes and ball of the foot). While wearing a pump, our body weight is distributed mainly to this particular area. The front of our foot becomes the heavy weight lifter that carries our entire body weight. This causes problems such as sesamoiditis, stress fractures, plantar plate ruptures, neuromas, and a slew of other injuries just from pressure. The narrow pointy shoes we have all come to know and love restrict our toes further. These shoes increase the foot deformities that some of us are predisposed to having, such as bunions, hammer toes and early onset of forefoot arthritis due to repetitive trauma to the area.
Directing our attention towards the ankle, wearing a high heel causes our Achilles Tendon (our largest tendon in the body) to stop working giving us that heel pain once we finally decide to wear a flat shoe or Ballerina slipper. Further up we have knee, hip, and back pain as well as jaw pain, all from wearing our beautiful, confidence producing, and leg elongating high heels.
And the more I know of all the negatives of wearing these high fashion styles, the more I want to help women to allow them to wear them just a little bit longer. I have seen patients in my office asking for surgery to help them in their careers. These women are models, actresses, dancers or in other professions where the shoes are important in order to make a statement. These women have asked for their toes to be fused in certain positions so they can wear 4 inch heels. They have asked for me to numb their toes with long acting anesthetics to go on all day auditions for modeling gigs. They have asked for shortening of their toes, removal of excess bones, and other unmentionable procedures all for the sake of walking a runway, dancing in a Salsa competition or arguing a case in a court room, all where they needed “to look the part”. I empathize with these women, and more often than not do whatever I can in order to help them because I know how difficult it is to advance in a chosen profession and I would never want to be that obstacle.
In a pair of high heels, I go from an average studious woman to an educated, well-spoken Doctor. It is, of course, very possible that this is just in my head; an illusion that has been created by high fashion designers, media, and the entertainment industry. But I know that as long as I feel that it is important, I will continue to advocate for ways to help other women be happy in their chosen heels, whether they be sling backs, peep-toes, wedges or pumps.
Dr. Diana Levin Valencia is a Podiatrist for NYU medical center at NYU Brooklyn Podiatry Associates as well as in private practice in Manhattan and Yonkers.
Levin Valencia Podiatry, PLLC 1 Maiden Lane, 2nd Floor, NY NY 212-571-1017
NYU Podiatry Associates, 1309 Ave P, Brooklyn NY 718-615-4444
Personal Podiatry, PC 875 Yonkers Avenue, Yonkers 914-776-2921