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Higher shoe pain risk for women: Study

The Telegraph—Calcutta, India—September 30, 2009

Women may now enjoy scientific sanctity in taking time to pick their footwear - but not with fashion in mind. A new study shows that women who choose wrong shoes early in life may suffer ankle and heel pain years later.

However, the study conducted by researchers at the Harvard Medical School and Hospital for Special Surgery in Boston and New York respectively, does not reveal any such link between poor footwear and pain among men.

While the physiological mechanisms for the foot pain are still unclear, the researchers say their findings suggest that either women’s feet are more sensitive to poor footwear choice than men’s feet are, or fewer men than women choose poor footwear.

The study, which analyzed shoewear patterns among 3,378 persons between 2002 and 2008, has found that 13 percent of women, but less than 2 percent of men, wore shoes that the researchers classified as “poor.”

The researchers have classified high heels, pumps, sandals and slippers as poor shoes; hard-soled leather shoes, rubber-soled shoes, cowboy boots and specially-designed shoes as average shoes; and athletic shoes and casual sneakers as good shoes.

Earlier studies have shown that high heels are unfavourable to function and comfort.

“High heel shoes may alter foot structure and alignment... while sandals and slippers are considered to lack the support of a conventional shoe,” Howard Hillstrom, a team member at Hospital for Special Surgery in New York, told The Telegraph.

The findings of the study will appear next month in the journal Arthritis Care & Research.

The researchers said poor footwear would vary from person to person.

The study found that among women, those who wore good shoes were 67 percent less likely to experience ankle or heel pain than women who wore average shoes. The researchers defined good shoes as those with better fit, foot posture, and shock absorption features.

They said each heel strike during a step may produce a biomechanical shock of 3g to 7g where ‘g’ is the acceleration due to Earth’s gravity. Good shoes have softer soles and use special materials or air chambers to smooth the shock wave.

The researchers believe poor shoes could modify the biomechanics of feet over time.

But scientists say their study wasn't aimed at matching foot types with footwear. Additional research will be needed to examine the role of footwear designs on foot function, taking into account the structure of specific foot types, Hillstrom said.

Sandals, for instance, could be a source of confusion because they come in myriad designs. A previous study of sandals with three dimensional elements - a cupped heel and arch support - had shown that it was comfortable for individuals with mild to moderate flat feet.

Young women, the researchers suggest, should make careful choices about shoe type to avoid the risk of foot pain later in life.

Read the full story at telegraphindia.com.


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