The Center for Podiatric Care and Sports Medicine

Ask An NYC Podiatrist: Is Your Daughter Ready For High Heels?

Posted by on Monday, November 24th, 2014

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The desire to be “grown-up like mom” is strong for many young girls these days. As early as they can walk and dig into closets, they’re trying on mom’s high heels and parading around the house — rather clumsily, and hopefully without incident! There’s no doubt in your mind that a three-year-old is not ready for this transition just yet, but what about your tween who is begging and pleading for heels to wear? “All my friends have them! Why can’t I?” is a common argument. As NYC podiatrists, we often field questions and concerns from parents who want to do what’s best for their girls’ health, while remaining understanding about the peer pressure they may be facing.

high heels
Wearing heels as a teen is exciting, but is it healthy? image source: wikimedia.com

NYC Podiatrists To Parents: “Just Say ‘No’ To Heels”

Your daughter will try every line in the book, from “Everyone is wearing them” to “I’ll DIE if I have to wear plain old, ugly, flat shoes!” But the consensus among podiatrists is clear: Resist, resist, resist. “The later, the better, but at least until 13 years old,” Isaac Tabari MD, chief podiatrist at the NYC Podiatry Central of Excellence, told The Stir.

“I would push for an even later start to high heel wearing. A number of things happen when children wear heels,” explains Dr. Josef Geldwert from The Center for Podiatric Care and Sports Medicine in Manhattan. “For girls, the growth plates in the legs close somewhere between 13 and 15. Until this happens, they are still growing very rapidly. Adding a few inches and an unnatural angle can shift the plates, cause inflammation, and shorten the Achilles tendon. This can all lead to disturbances in growth and chronic pain later in life.”

Common Problems Among Teens In Heels

We have treated heel-loving teenagers for the following common conditions:

  • Corns, calluses & ingrown toenails – caused by friction and cramped toe-boxes
  • Neuroma nerve inflammation – caused by the shifting of pressure to the balls of the feet
  • Plantar fasciitis heel pain – caused by keeping the foot in an unnatural flexed-toe position for an extended period of time
  • Ankle sprains – caused by lack of knowledge and experience in how to walk in these types of shoes

We also see a lot of posture problems and hear complaints of back pain or leg muscle stiffness suffered by these young fashionistas.

High Heel Shopping Tips

As far as research is concerned, the data is a mixed bag, so your gut may tell you it’s not so bad if your daughter has stopped growing and wants to wear heels on occasion.  If you truly feel it’s appropriate for your daughter to wear heels to a formal dance or special event (like a wedding), then there are several precautions you can take to minimize the damage:

  • Shop for a shoe that has a rounder, wider toe area to minimize friction
  • Opt for a lower “kitten” heel or a chunky wedge, and try to get a shoe with a bit of a platform built in so the foot sits flatter
  • Make sure the arch is rigid, so you can’t bend the shoe too much, and look for something with a “comfort sole” padding style
  • After-market padding is also available from brands like Dr. Scholl’s
  • Rubber soles are ideal for preventing falls
  • In closed-toe shoes, you can use no-show, non-skid heel liners to prevent chafing, corns, calluses, and blisters
  • On open-toe strappy shoes, there are strap cushions to protect the foot from straps digging in by night’s end

NYC Foot Pain Relief

If your child complains of heel pain, we recommend rest and ice until the pain has passed, and then heel lifts to strengthen the tendon. If symptoms persist for more than a week, come see a specialist at The Center for Podiatric Care and Sports Medicine to avoid long-term damage. We have all the diagnostic tools necessary to make sure your daughter hasn’t torn or fractured anything internal. We also offer next-level treatment options for chronic inflammation and pain, and we have podiatric surgeons on staff for acute fractures and other serious injuries. For your convenience, you may book your daughter’s appointment online.

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If you have any foot problems or pain, contact The Center for Podiatric Care and Sports MedicineDr. Josef J. GeldwertDr. Katherine Lai, Dr. Ryan Minara and Dr. Mariola Rivera have helped thousands of people get back on their feet. Unfortunately, we cannot give diagnoses or treatment advice online. Please make an appointment to see us if you live in the NY metropolitan area or seek out a podiatrist in your area.