Fashion fanatics take higher risk

By Celeste Gorrell Anstiss

Phoebe Falconer cites her height as the reason she prefers high heels. Photo / Janna Dixon
Phoebe Falconer cites her height as the reason she prefers high heels. Photo / Janna Dixon

More than 500 women were injured wearing high-heel shoes during the past 12 months - and the renaissance of 1970s-style platforms has put women in even more danger.

The shoes have an ultra-high-heel with a thick platform underneath the toe. Physiotherapists say many women believe it is a great way to add height without extra strain on the arch of the foot.

But musculo-skeletal expert David Woodbridge, from Functional Physio in Mt Eden, said the shoes were worse than a conventional high-heel because the wearer's centre of gravity was raised further and the stability was taken from underneath the toe as well as the heel. "It's like walking on stilts," he said. "It upsets your balance and throws the body weight forwards. There's a risk of acute and gradual-onset injuries."

The taxpayer picks up the strain.

ACC figures show that since the shoes became fashionable there has been a 13 per cent increase in claims caused by high-heels.

There were 503 between July last year and June this year, and 521 the previous year. For the 2008-09 year, there were just 454 cases.

Woodbridge said he regularly treated clients with twisted ankles, sprained knees and ruptured ligaments, after falling in high-heels. But it was the long-term injuries, such as shoulder and lower back pain, that caused Woodbridge to label high heels "the most ridiculous fashion accessory ever developed".

He said many women seemed unwilling to give up their shoe fetishes even after being injured.

"Fashion rules. Many women will put up with pain to be fashionable."

If you think you really must wear heels, he recommends:

A heel with a wider surface area.

Avoiding slip-on shoes or strappy styles.

A lower heel without a platform.

Good width in the toe area.

Phoebe Falconer managed a two-hour shopping marathon last week wearing a pair of platform heels - and she was unrepentant.

"They're just starting to hurt," Falconer said.

"But I like them, I'm only 5ft 4in so I need the height."

Falconer, a DJ and actress, said she would not attempt to run in them but would happily wear them for a five-hour gig behind the turntables.

- Herald on Sunday

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