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The truth about aging feet

Posted in Health

Manolo Blahink pumpsI am a touch envious of my sister who, inexplicably to me, is able to spend entire days on high heels. She puts them on to go to work and doesn’t take them off until she gets home, whatever time that might be. In between, she will have negotiated with either driving or with the Rome subway system; getting up and down from her desk job; foraging for lunch in the center of Rome and, possibly, an aperitif with her friends before trekking back home. She says she is comfortable and used to it. I find it hard to believe.

Despite my pink handmade clogs everyone makes fun of, I am not ready to give up high heels for good. On occasion, I take out my Manolos for a night out, or half a day when I know I won’t be walking around much and a lot of sitting will be taking place. Even in my younger days, my feet never had the stamina for an entire day in high heels. In Milan, I would walk to work in my sneakers and heels in my backpack.

I have now convinced myself that 20 years of yoga have made my feet wider and bigger. But, when I started digging into the subject of how our feet age, I came to the disconcerting realization that bigger feet are another of the charming by-products of aging.

Besides cheeks, jowls and butts, gravity also works its magic on the less resilient ligaments that connect to the feet, and it squeezes fluid from the older leaky veins in our lower extremities, causing the “attractive” swelling so common in older people. Looser tendons and ligaments equal bigger feet.
This most obvious age-related change, however, can be overlooked by many people. A 2006 study looked at the footwear choices of 440 patients at a U.S. veterans’ affairs hospital — most of whom were men, averaging about 67 years — and found that only 25% of them were wearing the right size shoe.
“Over the years, people tend to remember their Social Security number and their shoe size, but they’re remembering their shoe size from when they were 25 years old,” Dr. Caselli, a podiatrist, says.

According to Dr. Kendrick Whitney, assistant professor at Temple University School of Medicine in Philadelphia, “As the front of the foot widens and the arch lowers, the foot becomes not only longer but more flexible and flatter, letting the ankle roll inward and increasing the chance for sprains.”

If I were to keep on linking this chain of events further, I would have to tell you that, as the foot becomes wider, longer and less padded, the arch becomes overstretched: enter bunions sticking out from the big toe. Insert some weeping.

I couldn't resist: Manolo has a Campari pump. A man after our hearts
I couldn’t resist: Manolo has a Campari pump. A man after our hearts

All this happens regardless of what we do but, if we add high heels to the mix, the foot slides forward, forcing the toes into unnatural shapes and redistributing our weight incorrectly. This is not me talking but Dr. Nevins of the American College of Podiatry. The bad posture that ensues, I should remember to tell my sister, will eventually put pressure on the sciatic nerve. Also according to Dr. Nevins, switching between heels and flats can be a mistake, as the heels contribute to shorten the Achilles’ tendon that then gets stretched by flat shoes, leading to plantar fasciitis.
So, what is a fashion conscious middle-aged lady to do, one who is not ready to don Birkenstocks 24/7?
The American Osteopathic Association has the following suggestions:

  • Wear heels only when minimum amount of walking or standing is necessary;
  • Make sure the shoes are the right size;
  • Alternate the type of shoes you wear from one day to the next;
  • Spend some time stretching.

Also, shuffling around in flip-flops or slippers or flats might not be the best course of action in our downtime: rather invest in a pair of running shoes with shock absorbing soles. You will even look trendy.

Top image: new spring colors for the classic Manolo Blahnik pump

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14 Comments

  1. Sadly, gravity is not my friend in so many ways…and where feet are concerned, especially true. I’m resigned but actually happy with wearing flats or extremely low heels for short periods. Comfort is far more important as I age. And when Im comfortable, I smile more and no one generally pays attention to the footwear 😉

    February 24, 2016
    |Reply
    • camparigirl
      camparigirl

      Who knew we would come to think of gravity as the enemy!!

      February 25, 2016
      |Reply
  2. silvia
    silvia

    Sooner or later I know you’d come my side and treat yourself with a fantastic pair of Birkenstock!!!!

    dr. Caselli who?????!!!!!!!!!!

    February 24, 2016
    |Reply
    • camparigirl
      camparigirl

      I know, funny eh? No, I didn’t call your dad. As to the Birkenstocks I have two words for you: never ever.

      February 25, 2016
      |Reply
  3. I always refer to the line from the Bird Cage when Hank Azaria’s character says “I don’t like shoes. They make me fall down.” That is how I feel about high heels. I’ll stick to my sandals and bare feet for my own safety. 🙂

    February 23, 2016
    |Reply
    • camparigirl
      camparigirl

      Hilarious line! Will have to use it sometime.

      February 23, 2016
      |Reply
  4. I’ve always considered running shoes to be the most comfortable, but the heat here puts me off wearing them (unless I’m actually running). This is another reason why I like winter more!
    High heels are only for special occasions for me. They would not be practical at all, since I’m walking around all day at work

    February 23, 2016
    |Reply
    • camparigirl
      camparigirl

      And yet, plenty of women do it. Not just my sister. I think the majority of women in Paris are pretty comfortable teetering on heels. Leaves me to wonder how…

      February 23, 2016
      |Reply
  5. Isn’t aging fun?
    I used to always wear heels until I started getting back ache at age 45 and had to throw out all my heels and buy new low heels. I still miss heels and have 2 or 3 pairs for evenings out. I envy your sister.

    February 23, 2016
    |Reply
    • camparigirl
      camparigirl

      Even without back pain, my high heel forays are just as limited.

      February 23, 2016
      |Reply
  6. Irene
    Irene

    Love the Campari Manolos — wish I could wear them. Alas, my feet don’t like anything ladylike anymore.?

    February 22, 2016
    |Reply
    • camparigirl
      camparigirl

      I stumbled upon them by accident. Unlikely to find a home in my closet though.

      February 23, 2016
      |Reply
  7. Great post, and I love the Campari shoes! Sadly I can only look at them because they suit neither my budget nor my feet. Running shoes have been my weapon of choice for about 25 years now. Sometimes I can’t believe how adept I was at tottering around in high heels as a teenager before Lady Di introduced us all to the more comfortable low heeled but pretty shoes of the early 80s. I first needed physiotherapy on the undersides of my feet about ten years after I gave up ballet as my feet softened and spread wider and flatter. The dreaded Plantar Fasciitis hit me with a vengeance in my mid-40s despite the running shoes. I have since adopted long skirts as my primary fashion statement because they hide the ugly but comfy shoes!

    February 22, 2016
    |Reply
    • camparigirl
      camparigirl

      I think Kate Middleton is striking a good heel balance too. As to the Manolos, I can’t afford them either but, with expensive shoes, the upside is they last a very long time! I have some Sergio Rossi from my sister’s wedding nearly 20 years ago!

      February 23, 2016
      |Reply

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