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Ladies: Say No to High Heels

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"Wider heels may spare feet and reduce the risk of tripping or falling, but the long-term risk to the knee is greater," she says.

But other experts aren't so quick to kick out the heels.

"My feeling is that this doesn't get to be a major problem because most people are not wearing that high of a heel for a long period of time," osteoarthritis expert Roland Moskowitz, MD, tells WebMD.

Moskowitz says he has never been asked about heel height or width and osteoarthritis, and he feels there are other parameters besides knee pressures that affect osteoarthritis risk.

"If you are wearing high heels when you are in your 20s or 30s, you are less likely to do huge damage to your knee than when you are older and have some change in the joints that is already there," says Moskowitz, a professor of medicine at Case Western Reserve University and the chief of rheumatic diseases at University Hospitals, both in Cleveland.

"At that point, most people spontaneously stop wearing high-heeled shoes for very long periods of time," he says, as pain is the earliest symptom.

But wearing high-heeled shoes also can damage the feet, leading podiatrists tell WebMD.

"Many women will complain of pain under the ball of their foot or a burning sensation due to lack of cushioning in the heeled shoe," says one New York City-based podiatrist, Suzanne Levine, DPM, who often wears heels.

This is particularly common as women age because they lose fat under the ball of their foot, she says. "If you are going to wear heels, make sure they have the proper cushioning," says Levine, who authored Your Feet Don't Have to Hurt.

In addition to pain in the ball of the foot, blisters, corns, calluses, back pain, and heel pain are common foot problems, says Jane Andersen, DPM, a podiatrist in private practice in Durham and Chapel Hill, N.C.

"And on a more significant note, we see foot deformities get aggravated by high heels," she says. "I have also seen a lot of patients who have failed foot surgery because they continue to wear high-heel or pointy-toed shoes."

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