It is no secret that high heels are 'bad' for your feet and over time they can cause all sorts of foot problems, but it's the day after wearing high heels that women can have major foot pain or discomfort.
This day-after foot pain from wearing high heels is the called the 'High Heel Hangover'.
Like other 'hangovers', you can take some pain meds and stay in bed all day in hopes that the pain goes away. However, the purpose of this blog is to provide key remedies to get your feet feeling better fast, and to have readers share their experiences and treatments that may have specifically helped them.
The Symptoms. Pain and discomfort is the hallmark of the high heel hangover. It may be mild and achy to intense and severe. Some people may not be able to walk for hours or a full day. The pain could be localized to a pressure spot or more globally throughout the foot. And this seems to vary depending on foot structure and the presence of any underlying foot problems, such as bunions, hammer toes, and metatarsalgia, to name a few. It is possible to have foot swelling, cuts and scrapes. Of course the symptoms vary depending on foot structure, heel height/shoe structure and time spent in the shoe. The higher the heel and skinnier the stiletto, then the worse the high heel hangover. A health care professional should evaluate significant pain and swelling.
So, if you find yourself with a high heel hangover, below are 6 things you can do to recover:
1. Yoga, Stretching & Foot Exercises. The Achilles Tendon and calf muscle becomes tight (or shortened) from high heels, so its important to actively perform stretches. Additionally, the pure nature of high heels causes the toes to buckle and contract, and can specifically result in hammer toes. Yoga is an excellent method to stay stretched, and specific postures that benefit the feet include: Downward-facing dog, and the Virasana-Hero Pose. A runners wall stretch specifically targets the Achilles Tendon. Perform simple range-of-motion exercises of the ankles as it keeps the blood flowing within the foot and can help remove excess fluids (swelling) in the lower leg. This is best accomplished by moving the foot up, down, left, right, and in circles. Another method is to draw an imaginary alphabet with your big toe.
2. Soak your feet in Mineral Foot Bath. Aside from being relaxing, Epsom salt soaks have long been used to soothe sore body parts, especially the feet. Epsom salt is actually not a salt, but rather a natural mineral of magnesium and sulfate, and can be absorbed through the skin. Magnesium is important for the body to build and repair tissues as its used in more than 300 enzymatic reactions. Warm water allows for the dilation of the body blood vessels and opens the skins pores. So, think of this as a mineral bath that provides direct benefit to your feet when they need to recover.
3. Pamper your feet. The presence of improperly cut toe nails or ingrown nails may cause pain after wearing high heels and pointy toed shoes. And thick focal calluses themselves may be painful. Having a pedicure may directly alleviate these painful areas. People with diabetes should always use caution when receiving foot care and strongly consider a health care professional for these services.
4. Moisturize, Moisturize, Moisturize. It is important to keep the skin on your foot supple and moisturized, as rough areas develop on pressure points and can be painful. Even after a few hours of wearing high heels and cramped shoes dry patches of skin may occur. The ball of the foot takes the most impact with high heels, and the foot can become quite callused in this area. Thicker calluses may become painful, especially if they are cracked and fissured. The top of the toes may develop corns that can also be painful in a closed toe shoe. The back of the heel is notorious for becoming irritated and one can develop blisters and soars with dry skin.
Moisturizers dedicated to the feet are often best, as the skin of the bottom of the foot is thicker and actually has an additional layer of skin compared to skin elsewhere. Urea based creams are most commonly known for moisturizing. Also I often recommend moisturizers that are made with Jojoba oil, a liquid wax from a seed extract. Jojoba oil has anti-fungal properties (a benefit for feet) and has been studied for anti-inflammatory properties as well. Of course, moisturizing creams should be applied after a foot bath for maximal penetration.
5. Deep Massage. Massage is thought to provide pain relief from musculoskeletal injury, as well as alleviate anxiety. The therapeutic benefits of deep tissue massage go back to ancient times and dozens of techniques exist. The arch of the foot contains several muscles that are intrinsic to the foot, and work to stabilize the toes. The altered alignment and biomechanics may result in muscular imbalances within the foot and muscular strains. Additionally, deep tissue massage may also improve blood flow and alleviate lymphatic edema.
6. Wear Sneakers. It is important to allow your feet to 'rest' after wearing high heels. I call this a high heel holiday. As previously discussed, the ball of the foot takes the most pressure from high heels and one could develop tears in the ligaments that support the toes on the bottom of the foot, and/or develop stress fractures. Nonetheless, well-cushioned sneakers work the best and you can wear padded socks for extra cushion. If you can't wear sneakers, try to limit the amount of time your foot is exposed to a high heel, and wear flip-flops or sneakers to and from your destination.
If you have any high heel hangover remedies that have worked for you, please tell us about it....
Follow Neal M. Blitz, D.P.M., F.A.C.F.A.S. on Twitter: www.twitter.com/DrNealBlitz