What do high heels and dessert have in common? You shouldn’t overindulge in either of them, according to an expert at Baylor College of Medicine.

You should treat high heels like a dessert, saving them only for special occasions, says Dr. Jason Ahuero, assistant professor of orthopedic surgery at Baylor.

Dangerous for foot, ankle

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Our expert cautions that higher heels place your ankle ligaments at a mechanical disadvantage, making them more prone to injury.

“Wearing high heels can cause various ankle injuries, including lateral ankle sprains and ankle fractures,” said Ahuero, who specializes in foot and ankle surgery.  “Higher heels place your ankle ligaments at a mechanical disadvantage, making them more prone to injury.”

High heels also can accelerate the progression of bunions and even make them more symptomatic, Ahuero says. They also can result in hammer toes, where the joints in the smaller toes are hyperextended, causing deformity and irritation.

This usually occurs when the shoe is narrower in the toe area than your foot. He suggests tracing the outline of your foot and your shoe. If the outline of the shoe is narrower than the outline of your forefoot, then it’s likely not a good shoe for you.

Benefits of lower heel

Ahuero suggests 2- to 2-and-a-half inch heels rather than 4-inch heels, because they put less pressure on your forefoot. He also suggests wearing a thicker heel rather than a narrower heel, such as a stiletto, for added stability and because even though it may make you look taller than a thicker heel, you are not.

He also notes that very high heels may contribute to the development of plantar fasciitis and Achilles tendonitis. Morton’s neuroma, a nerve irritation at the ball of the foot, can also be a source of pain for those who wear high heels regularly.

Ahuero says that if foot pain lasts longer than a few days, a visit to the doctor may be in order.

Selecting the perfect shoe

He also offers the following general tips when buying shoes:

  • Measure your foot each time you get a new pair, because feet get longer as we age and each shoe brand varies in size.
  • Measure your shoe size while standing up and be sure to walk around when trying on the shoes.
  • Don’t buy a pair of shoes if they feel tight when trying them on – they will not stretch out.
  • Try shoes on at the end of the day when feet are likely to be more swollen.
  • Consider a silicone heel cup or open toed shoes for more comfort.