Fox Medical Team: Dangers of High Heels

This is a story that hits - shall we say - close to home. Most women like their high heels, always have, always will.

But some women's shoes aren't just high, they're downright punishing. Doctors say high-heel lovers may end up paying for it with foot problems.

I'm kind of boring in the shoe department. But a lot of women are sporting five, six, seven inch heels, or crazy-high stilettos. Several of them work right here at FOX 5. 

Australian researchers studied a small group of young women - around 25 - who wear high heels. They found the shoes changed their alignment, their muscles and tendons, even the way they walk.

But, oh, how we still love them.

They look so good,

"I love heels and I love them high, they have to be high. If they're not high, I don't want them,” said Joy.

"High heels, they're a must. I'm short, they make you at least three inches taller,” said Erin.

Yet they hurt so bad.

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"This is technically a sitting shoe, meaning you just sit, and look pretty,” said Karen.

"I have a pair of Jimmy Choo shoes that I bought several years ago. They're patent leather, open-toe, they kill my feet,” said Gurvir.

"I found these shoes, and I fell in love with them. And they were a steal-of-a-deal, $9,” said Tanya.

Only problem? They kill.

"So, now, if anybody needs a pair of shoes, they're $9,” said Tanya.

Tiffany Peebles forced her feet into heels - all day almost every day - for almost 20 years, then they started talking back. And by then her feet were screaming.

"It was severe pain, literally like stabbing with a knife. I would have to take my shoes off, it was excruciating,” said Tiffany Peebles.

"That's my number one complaint, is foot pain due to high heels,” said Dr. Gary Stewart.

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Resurgens Orthopedics foot surgeon Dr Gary Stewart says 40 percent of his patients have foot problems because of their shoes.

"Women associate the higher the heel with style. And the higher the heel the more it causes damage,” said Stewart. "And surprisingly my own wife has some pretty crazy high heels. These are her Charles Jourdan's. I don't even know if she knows I took them."

"Your toes are looking like this in the shoe. That causes some of the structural damage over time,” said Stewart.

And new research shows it doesn't take long for heels to do their damage. He's treated muscle strains, foot pain, hammer toes and bunions, all because of heels.

"I had to have bunion surgery on one of my feet, so far. And it definitely takes a toll on feet,” said Peebles.

If you love your heels, Stewart says, “use them sparingly. Use them for church. Use them for business. And use them when you're going out at night."

"You keep your flats, and your flip flops in the car, as soon as you take this shoe off, your feet are going, Ahhhhhh,” said Karen.

Australian researchers recently compared young women who wore heels at least 40 hours a week - to young women who wore flats. They asked both groups to walk barefoot. But the high-heeled group continued to walk - like they were still in heels, taking smaller steps, and walking on the tips of their toes. 

Dr. Stewart says heels can change how your calf muscles contract, and how your foot bones align.

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