Heels – particularly mid to high – can be feminine and glamorous, adding height. They can make you feel more powerful and attractive and give your confidence a boost. Don’t you just love to throw on a pair of heels to complete your outfit?

The Spine Health Institute shows that 72 percent of women will wear high heels in their lifetime. Many wear them daily; 49% aged 18-24-years, 42% aged 20-49, and 34% aged 50 and over.

If you are suffering with back and lower limb joint pain, one of the first things I would address would be your footwear. I assess how your shoe is affecting your foot, ankle, knee, hip, pelvis and lower back. If you are a person that wears heels regularly, I would look at the heel height as it really matters. The higher the heel, the more pressure goes through the ball of your foot which can make your pain and degeneration worse through the joints.

I know a lot of you fashionistas are thinking there is no way you are saying goodbye to your heels and the good news is, you don’t have to. The trick is to wear them without causing too much damage. Let me tell you how

In my late teens and early twenties, I wouldn’t leave the house without wearing a pair of heels. Whether kitten heels or stilettos, it didn’t matter, as long as they were heels. For me they added height, looked feminine and all in all completed my outfits. Yes, I would complain of sore feet and achy knees at the end of the day, but I thought it was worth it…what was I thinking?

Today it is a different story. Between my school runs, clinic work, food shopping and general living, I choose trainers and flats for my daily footwear mainly due to their ease, comfort and practicality. Don’t get me wrong, I wear heels occasionally, but I keep my feet pain-free by following a few simple rules which I will be sharing with you.

Let’s begin by understanding what heels do to your body.

* When you put on a pair of heels, your pelvis immediately shifts forward which is known as an anterior pelvic tilt. This causes an arch in your lower back commonly known as a lordosis and can cause back pain.

* Extra pressure goes through your lumbar discs which may lead to degeneration the more you wear them. In addition, your chest is pushed forward which doesn’t help your diaphragm or breathing.

* In order to maintain balance, your calf, hip and back muscles get tight causing fatigue and strain towards the end of the day. The heels add pressure as well as change the dynamics of your hips, knees, ankles and feet.

The height of your heels makes a large difference too.

Did you know?:

The higher the heel the more pressure goes through the ball of your foot, balancing a larger proportion of your body weight.

* A 1-inch heel will carry 22% of your weight through your forefoot.

* A 2inch heel will carry 57% of your weight through your forefoot.

* A 3inch heel will carry 76% of your weight through the forefoot.

It is no wonder why you have such sore feet when wearing those 3 plus inch heels as your little forefoot is carrying 76%, which is more than ¾ of your body weight!

Even with this information, I am pretty sure some of you aren’t planning on hanging up your dancing shoes anytime soon. I understand the allure of heels, so take these seven tips into consideration as they can drastically lower the negative effects of wearing heels.

7 self-help tips when wearing heels:

1. Wear gel pads at the ball of the foot or your heel to take pressure off and give less soreness to your feet when standing or walking.

2. Opt for a lower inch heel as there is less body weight to balance on your forefoot. Maybe set your limit to a 2inch heel.

3. When shopping for shoes, try to go in the afternoon as it’s when your feet are widest. This helps prevent buying shoes that are too tight for your feet which may lead to further discomfort and compression of your joints.

4. Wear a variety of shoes from heels to trainers, wedges to flats to vary your footwear day to day. It allows your ankle to position in different angles. This enables the calf muscle to be relaxed and elongated as opposed to tight and shortened when wearing heels. Tight calf muscles not only cause achy legs but can lead to achilles tendonitis, strains, sprains and plantar fasciitis.

5. Whether commuting to work, going to a party or an event, try to limit the time you are wearing heels. This is something I do often, pack your heels in your bag and wear flat shoes till you get to the destination. I find this is especially useful if you are taking public transport, as running for trains or buses can be a nightmare in heels.

6. Wear shoes with a thicker heel as oppose to a pointy heel as it transmits less pressure into your heel bone (calcaneus) causing less pain.

7. Stretch your leg and feet muscles before and after wearing heels to prevent the muscles from getting tight and achy.

To sum up, when choosing the right shoe try to choose good quality and support. Padding on the inside and inner soles can give comfort as well as keep the external look of your choice. If wearing high heels on a regular basis opt for a thick heel as oppose to thin stilettos. Remember to pack your heels in your bag when travelling to work and for occasions so the time they are worn is minimal. Stretch your leg and feet as often as you can to prevent shortening of muscles.

Living with sore feet and pain in your joints for the sake of fashion can be a misery. I hope these self-help tips bring you some comfort when wearing heels. Looking fabulous with minimal pain is the secret.

As Marilyn Monroe once said, ‘give a girl the right pair of shoes and she can conquer the world