Health: The truth about killer heels

They may make your legs look longer and leaner but high heels can also cause long-term damage to your feet and the rest of your body - as Sarah Jessica Parker discovered. The actress reported experiencing problems with her knees after running round in strappy high-heeled sandals while filming of Sex And The City. Watch out for the following problems before they become more serious:


* Corns and callouses, formations of hard skin that develop to cope with inflammation.


* Shortening of the Achilles tendon which takes place if high heels are worn continuously. It's extremely painful, the result of natural movement and stretching being restricted by the height of the foot, and can result in limping and difficulty using stairs when the foot needs to stretch more than on flat surfaces.


* Digital neuritis. Caused by pressure on the balls of the feet this is an inflammation of the digital nerves, which can lead to…


* Morton's Neuroma - overloaded nerves that clump together to form a painful mass of nerve tissue between the second and third toe. It's what makes people rub their feet after a long day in high heels.


* Bunions. These result from the weight of the body being thrown forward onto the front of the foot, creating a deviation of the phalanx away from the metatarsal head. Basically a bone deformity, bunions are nevertheless not particularly painful - until bursitis develops that is, a fluid-filled sac that builds up to help protect the joint and feels like toothache in the foot.


* Plantar fasciitis occurs when the band of connective tissue between the heel and ball of the foot isn't stretched as it should be by a natural walking movement. The result is agonising pain along the sole of the foot first thing in the morning until it softens. It can lead to heel spurs.


To prevent problems developing, wear high heels for a few hours only two or three times a week and then soak feet in salt water, rub them and moisturise to help muscles recover quicker and keep skin intact.


Stretching exercises are beneficial. Stand on a bottom step with your heels hanging over the edge and, holding on to the handrail, lower then raise your heels through to tip-toe. It shortens and lengthens muscles and ligaments to help keep them flexible.

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