Even if you love fashion, you must know that it’s a pretty fickle beast. What’s in one day is passé the next. You spend hundreds on an item in March, and then wouldn’t be seen dead with it in May. But the worst of it is the toll it can take on you physically. No one said fashion had to be practical or comfortable, and those considerations are the last things on a fashion designer’s mind.
The truth of fashion is that it caters to a world that doesn’t really exist. Who’d walk out onto the street in a six-foot high hat and eight-inch heels? But even many of those toned-down items that make it into the high street stores aren’t really suitable for everyday wear. All it takes to cause pain and potentially long-term problems is to venture out too many times in high heels with a heavy bag slung over one shoulder. The legs, the back, the shoulders, spine and neck can all suffer in your pursuit of fashion.
High heels are the worst culprits in the line-up because they so badly alter a person’s natural balance, throwing all sorts of stresses and strains into vulnerable parts of the body. It is not just the feet that suffer in high heels. The dynamic equilibrium enjoyed by a well-balanced body is ruined by high heels, and unnatural compensations take place in the body, with new movements, alignments and restrictions.
In a nutshell, high heels increases the normal forward curve of the spine and also tip the pelvis forward. The body’s center of gravity shifts as a result. Standing bare foot allows a person to be perfectly balanced, as nature intended, with the hamstrings supporting the pelvis as they should. High heels, on the other hand, encourage the hamstrings to shorten.
It is the same with clothes that are too tight; movement is restricted, changed, and the body has to compensate. But second in the guilty line-up is heavy bags, purses, backpacks or briefcases, and the people who load into them far too much stuff. A bag that weighs more than 10% of your body weight causes the body to become imbalanced, especially when it is carried over one shoulder or in one hand, because the natural tendency is to lift up the carrying shoulder and lean the body to the opposite side to compensate. The legs and arms then become less coordinated and the spine curves towards the weight-bearing shoulder.
Less serious is the practice of carrying a hefty wallet in your back pockets. Less serious perhaps, but more insidious in the fact that many people will not even give it a second thought. However, this can cause discomfort over a day, especially if you are sitting on it for part of the time because the muscle will be dented by the article, causing pain.
It may be hard, but you need to forgo certain fashions for the sake of your health, where those fashions are detrimental to your health. Keep in mind the following when choosing clothes, shoes and accessories.
- Choose comfortable shoes. When you go out in high heels, try and take a pair of flats with you to swap into if you become uncomfortable. If you want to wear high heels at work and you walk to work, take the heels in a bag and walk in flat shoes instead.
- If a shoe feels uncomfortable when merely standing, walking in it will be infinitely worse.
- Choose supportive shoes that have sufficient cushioning to make walking easy.
- Whatever shoes you are wearing, take regular breaks from sitting to stretch out the hamstrings.
- Don’t wear clothes so tight that they restrict your physical movements.
- Select a bag that allows you to carry it distributed evenly on your body, rather than over one shoulder. The strap should therefore be padded and long enough to place over the head.
- If the bag is on one shoulder or in one hand, swap it frequently from one side to the other to share the burden.
- Remove any unnecessary items from your bag to make it lighter.
- Keep often-used items to hand rather than in your back pocket to prevent having to twist to get them.
- Remove your wallet from your back pocket when sitting or driving for any length of time.
- Suit your clothes to your everyday activities.
Remember that you can be stylish and healthy at the same time, and that shunning the latest fashion to protect your health is actually the coolest thing you can do.
For Your Health,
Dr. Joseph Gambardella, Dr. Todd Brown and Dr. Benjamin Erb