Women spend more time on their feet than men at home, and wear shoes with heels that aggravate foot problems at work. Their unique bodies and circumstances call for extra precautions related to the foot. Following are general guidelines for four issues specific to women's foot health:
Women invite foot problems by wearing high heels. High heels may contribute to knee and back problems, disabling injuries in falls, shortened calf muscles, and an awkward, unnatural gait. In time, high heels may cause enough changes in the feet to impair their proper function. Most women admit high heels make their feet hurt, but they tolerate the discomfort in order to look taller, stylish, and more professional.
There are ways to relieve some of the abusive effects of high heels. Women can limit the time they wear them by alternating with good-quality, oxford-type shoes or flats for part of the day. Keep the heel height to no more than two inches and make sure the fit for the rest of the shoe is good. Varying heel heights whenever possible to wear shoes as low as possible in each situation. For example, there are comfortable and attractive "walking" pumps for women for work and social activities.
Experts say the best shoes for women may be:
A walking shoe with ties (not a slip-on).
Shoes with a Vibram-type composition sole.
A relatively wider heel, no more than a half or three-quarters of an inch in height.
Women who always wear nylon pantyhose expose themselves to a host of foot problems. Nylon doesn't breathe and the heat that it generates and traps can lead to excessive perspiration. A warm, damp area is an ideal place for fungal infections such as Athlete's Foot.
Inexpensive nylon pantyhose can also cause forefoot problems, because they don't allow the normal expansion of the foot when walking, and may pull the toes backward when the pantyhose ride up. The cramping and pressure of the hose can contribute to ingrown toenails and hammertoes. If you must wear pantyhose, be sure they fit properly around the foot. Limit the length of time you wear them whenever possible and, like socks, wash them after every use.
Pregnant women need to observe good foot health to prevent pain and discomfort. Since the body undergoes changes and acquires a new weight-bearing stance, women should wear shoes with broad-based heels that provide support and absorb shock. Additional body weight also calls for more support, to prevent foot "breakdown."
The expectant mother often experiences more than ordinary swelling of her feet and ankles, which can aggravate existing foot conditions and promote inflammation or irritation. Pregnancy also triggers the release of hormones that enhance loose ligaments, which can contribute to foot strain. To help overcome these problems, allow time each day to stay off your feet. Elevate the feet and legs when you are sitting to help prevent and reduce swelling. Don't sit for long periods of time. If problems do develop, please contact our office.
Women Over 65
Older women have more trouble with their feet than younger ones, often because fat pads on the bottom of the feet tend to deteriorate in the aging process. Many foot problems for older women can be alleviated simply by wearing properly fitted, well-constructed shoes that provide cushioning and have a soft, flexible upper that will conform to the shape of their feet. Shoes made of leather that "breathes" can also reduce the possibility of skin irritation.
Soles should be lightweight, with enough flexibility and shock-absorbing quality to provide solid footing and not be slippery. Low-heeled shoes provide greater stability, more protection for the feet, and greater comfort. Because older women often have circulatory problems, they have a special need to keep their feet warm in cold weather, to prevent frostbite or chilblains. Most importantly, keep walking and moving around every day so that all the systems in the legs and feet remain stretched and circulation stays healthy.