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Heels to flats can equal pain

Our official warm weather marker, the 24th of May, has passed and so true Bermudians either took their first swim on Friday or know that it’s now okay to do so. With the warmer temperatures we start baring our feet. For many women it’s a time where the high heels get shelved and the flat sandals and flip-flops are donned.

While this might seem to be a healthier way to dress, the switch from heels to flats can cause a lot of foot and leg pain.

Local podiatrist Neil Moncrieff said the pain is a result of tendons in the foot being used differently. He said wearing high heels for a long period of time can result in a shortening and tightening of the Achilles tendon, the connective tissue that supports the ankle and heel of the foot, and that connects the calf muscles to the heel bone.

According to Dr Moncrieff, walking in a flat shoe causes feet to flex upward when the heel hits the ground, and then flex downward as the foot rolls to the toe to take the next step.

As the Achilles tendon is short and tight in women who have been wearing high heels for a long time, the foot loses its ability to flex up and down. Switching to a flat then often results in heel and calf pain.

According to Dr Moncrieff you can make the switch painlessly. He suggests moving down gradually, lowering your heels a bit then a bit more before going completely flat, this will give the tendon time to relax and stretch out.

Dr Moncrieff also cautions that completely flat shoes and sandals are not necessarily the best for your feet. Flat shoes often lack good support for your heel and arch and can aggravate very painful conditions like plantar fasciitis.

Here are three simple exercises to stretch the tendon.

Seated Achilles Tendon Stretch

1. Sit on the floor with both legs straight in front of you.

2. Bend the right knee and bring your foot flat on the ground and as close to your hip as possible.

3. Grab the underside of the toes with both hands.

4. Keeping the heel on the floor light the toes as high as you can using your hands to help.

5. Hold for 15 -20 seconds.

6. Release, stretch your right leg out.

7. Repeat on the left side.

Standing Achilles stretch1. Stand facing a wall with feet parallel.

2. Bring your foot to the wall about knee height and push your heel to the wall.

3. Hold for a few seconds.

4. Repeat with the other foot

5. Do at least five sets.

Chair stretch

1. Sit with your legs extended and the knees straight.

2. Loop an elastic band or towel around the leg to be stretched. Position the band or towel so that it goes around your foot just under the toes.

3. Hold each end of the towel or band in each hand, with your hands positioned above your knees. A towel will give you a more effective stretch.

4. Pull back with the towel or band so that your foot stretches toward you.

5. Hold the position for 10 to 30 seconds.

6. Do at least five sets.

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Published May 28, 2013 at 9:00 am (Updated May 27, 2013 at 2:48 pm)

Heels to flats can equal pain

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