This is a question often put to myself from the concerned female professional patient.
Well ladies I will quickly summarise some of the factors contributing to their ‘Badness’.
If the heel height is greater than 5cm, then 100% of your body weight is being forced forward onto the front of the foot. These bones are called metatarsals. The metatarsals are not designed to accommodate the entire weight of the human body. Coupled with the fact that most high heels are designed for 3 toes and most people, since I last checked have 5 this effectively acts as a vice.
The long term effects of daily wearing and walking in this type of footwear are literally crippling. Bunions, hammer toes, premature arthritis, calf tightening and lower back issues are just some of the conditions you can look forward to acquiring in the future. So less than 5cm please. Less is more!
A sling back heel made of synthetic material with a thin forefoot and synthetic straps would probably rate as the worst footwear on planet earth (apart from thongs) but that’s one for another day. Not only do they provide no support to the heel of your foot but the front of the foot tends to slide off, creating friction on the skin and nerves of the foot. This can cause a burning/aching pain in the balls of the feet.
A backed heel provides more support to the foot and provides stability to the major stabilisation joint of the foot. A wedge sole (I know girls, I can hear you cringe and screaming protest from my office now!) evenly dispuises forces from front to back. Look for some cushioning and thickness in the front of your “heel” (so to speak) even do a test twist in the shoe. A thicker front in the shoe will decrease the inclination angle from front to back and effectively decrease the heel height. A thicker front should also provide some cushioning to the metatarsal (or balls of your feet). The quality of the material used in this area of the shoe is crucial in determining how good or bad this shoe is for your foot. Look for leather coverings with cushioning under the cover. This can be difficult to find, but will have a major effect on the comfort levels for the “balls of your feet” (Believe me, your day at the races will be much more pleasant and you may even make it to race 7 before you take them off for the “walk of shame” home!)
Also look for quality rubber under soles. The better the quality of the rubber the longer the shoe will last and better the comfort for your foot. If they are leather underneath go and get them rubber soled from a good boot maker or cobbler. Even a thin addition will make a difference (2mm)
Over the coming weeks I intend to go high heel shopping myself, with the intent to come up with a list of stores that stock such shoes.