Suffering for fashion? Make smart shoe and purse choices

They may look gorgeous, but your choice of shoes and bags could be placing unnecessary stress on your joints and muscles — and, over time, that may cause you serious pain or injury.

Fortunately, being fashionable doesn’t have to hurt.


The American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons (AAOS) offer the following tips for avoiding shoe and handbag-related pain and injury.

Rethink your purse, briefcase or backpack

“Large purses and briefcases can cause shoulder, neck, elbow and back pain, and even serious injury,” says San Francisco orthopaedic surgeon and AAOS spokesperson Sara L Edwards, MD, and offers these tips.

  • Pack lightly, and only carry what is essential for the day. Do you really need to bring your laptop computer to and from work every night? Is it essential to transport a hard-copy of that 300-page report? Do you need to carry a large purse and a briefcase?
  • In general, your handbag should not exceed 10 percent of your body weight. This means a 150 pound person should carry no more than 15 pounds.
  • When packing your briefcase or large purse, pack heavier items low and toward the center.
  • Do not carry a heavy briefcase, tote or purse for long periods of time. If you must, wear your purse or bag over your shoulder (not in the crook of your arm, which can strain the elbow muscles and joints) and switch sides often.  If possible, carry your bag diagonally over the opposite shoulder and hip.
  • If using a backpack, make sure it has two padded and adjustable shoulder straps, and several compartments to secure various-sized items. Use both the straps, because slinging a backpack over one shoulder does not allow its weight to be distributed evenly, which can cause muscle strain.
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Buy and wear the right shoes

“Wearing poorly-fitting shoes, especially those with high heels, platforms or pointed toes, can result in bunions, hammer toes, corns, knee and lower back pain and other conditions,” Dr Edwards says. “I’ve seen many women with ACL (anterior cruciate ligament) injuries from wearing wedge sandals and high heels.”

  • Women who walk long distances or frequently get on and off buses, trains or trolleys should not wear a shoe with a heel higher than 2-1/4 inches. (As the photo at the top shows, there are lots of cute shoes out there that don’t have stiletto heels.)
  • If you want to wear high-heeled shoes at the office, consider wearing more comfortable shoes while walking to and from public transportation or the parking garage. Keep your high-heeled shoes at work to minimize what you carry to and from the office each day.
  • Try on new shoes (both the left and the right) at the end of the day. Your feet normally swell and become larger after standing or sitting during the day.
  • Make sure the shoes fit. Ask the salesperson to measure the length and width of both feet.  Sizes vary among shoe brands and styles.
    • There should be 1/2-inch space from the end of your longest toe to the end of the shoe.
    • Your toes should not feel pinched or cramped. You should be able to wiggle them freely.
  • Most high heeled-shoes have a pointed, narrow toe box that crowds the toes and forces them into an unnatural triangular shape. Over time, this can cause the foot to take on the shape of the shoe causing deformities, like hammer toes and corns.
  • There is no such thing as a “break-in period.” With time, a foot may push or stretch a shoe to fit, but this can cause foot pain and damage.
  • Shoes that lace or buckle, have Velcro or some other type of strapping mechanism, provide more support to your arch.
  • A shoe with a removable insole is helpful so that you can add an orthotic or more cushioned insole if needed.
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Keep your feet fit
  • Routine foot and leg stretching exercises, such as rolling your foot over a tennis or golf ball or stretching your legs and feet before you get out of bed, can strengthen muscles and alleviate pain, especially as you age.
  • After a long day of walking or standing, elevate your feet and legs to relieve pressure.
  • Pay attention to changes in your feet.  If you notice calluses, blisters or localized swelling after wearing certain kinds of shoes, consider changing your footwear choice.

Heels shown at top: Joan & David Collection Women’s Gila Pump in Dark Pink Patent / John Fluevog Women’s Malibran Mary Jane Pump in Turquoise/White

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