Researchers at the Institute for Aging Research of Hebrew SeniorLife in a new study of older adults and foot problems found that the types of shoes women wear may cause future hind-foot (heel and ankle) pain.
Nearly 64 percent of women who reported hind-foot pain regularly wore these types of shoes at some point in their life.
"We found an increased risk of hind-foot pain among women who wore shoes, such as high-heels or pumps, that lack support and sound structure," says lead author Alyssa B. Dufour, a graduate student in the Institute's Musculoskeletal Research Program.
Published in the October issue of the journal Arthritis Care and Research, the study is one of the first to examine the association between shoe wear-beyond just high-heel use-and foot pain.
The researchers, who analyzed foot-examination data from more than 3,300 men and women in The Framingham Study, say past shoe wear among women is a key factor for hind-foot pain. They found no significant link between foot pain and the types of shoes men wear.
From a list of 11 shoe types, study participants were asked about the one style of shoe they currently wear on a regular basis, what they regularly wore during five age periods in the past, and if they experience pain, aching or stiffness in either foot on most days.
Nearly 30 percent of women and 20 percent of men reported generalized foot pain, which is in line with other foot-pain studies.
Dufour's team, however, found a significant association in women who reported hind-foot pain and past shoe wear that included high-heels and pumps.
The shoe types were classified as "poor" (high-heels, pumps, sandals and slippers), "average" (hard- or rubber-soled shoes and work boots), and "good" (athletic and casual sneakers). More than 60 percent of women reported wearing "poor" shoes in the past, compared to only 2 percent of men (13 percent of women said they currently wear "poor" shoes).
When we walk, a significant biomechanical shock is delivered to the foot each time our heel strikes the ground. "Good" shoes, such as sneakers and other athletic footwear, often have soles and other features that soften this shock and protect the foot.
The heel and ankle take the brunt of this shock, which may be why women who wear high-heeled shoes often report pain in this part of the foot.
"Young women," says Dufour, "should make careful choices regarding their shoe types in order to potentially avoid hind-foot pain later in life."