Killer Heels: What Your Favorite Shoes Are Doing to Your Feet

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Blame It on Gaga

It's easy to blame all of this on the skyscraper heels that have been in fashion for several seasons. Seriously, if Lady Gaga can wear 12-inch platforms onstage, how bad could your four -- or even five-inchers be? Even when they hurt, there's a reason you love them. "High heels make most women feel that they look better," says Valerie Steele, director of the Museum at the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York City and the author of Shoes: A Lexicon of Style. "They tilt your pelvis; your tummy is in, your bosom is out, and you look taller, thinner, and curvier." Not to mention they make your legs look longer, your ankles more slender -- and men adore them. There's no mistaking the seductive pull of a beautiful pair of shoes. "You're never too old or too fat to wear them," says Steele. "You slip them on and you feel like a new person."

The good news is that you don't have to pack away your sexy high heels. Just wear them less often, for shorter periods, and for occasions where you won't be on your feet too much. "It's about balance," says Amy Matthews, a New York-based movement therapist. "With just about any shoe my advice is, ?Great, wear it; then wear something else.'"

But even smart-seeming alternatives such as ballet flats and sneakers can do damage. If they don't fit properly or aren't built right, with arch support and other features, "you're trading one problem for another," says Alicia Galitzin, creative director at Taryn Rose, a line of stylish healthy shoes.

Your feet are adaptable, built to walk on a variety of surfaces. So to keep them healthy -- and the rest of your body balanced -- try switching regularly between a variety of low, supportive footwear. But finding a decent-looking shoe that fits, supports properly, and lets you stride easily and naturally -- sans pain -- is like searching for the Holy Grail. Luckily, most women enjoy the hunt.

Continued on page 3:  What's the Damage?


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