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High heel shoes: Bitter price of elegance

When it comes to shoes, some women will go through hell for a pair of the London Jimmy Choo brand. The brand became notable in the fashion circles, especially for its high heeled bridals since 1996.

Since wearing high-heeled shoes is an art, women deserve medals for learning to walk in them let alone run! But what effect does wearing high heel have on our bodies?

 By Lucy Osuizigbo  

Most women believe that if they wear high-heeled shoes they will become more attractive, sexier, more cultured, corporate and sophisticated as well as boost their confidence.

These days at social functions, including churches, as every day wear, especially in the corporate world, Nigerian ladies can be seen wearing these ridiculously high-heeled shoes that come as high as 14 to 16 inches.

There are different kinds -- the wedge, clogs, ankle strap heels, wedge sandals and the high heel sandals and they come in assorted colours.

Unknown to many, the constant wearing of these shoes presents some very serious health risks as experts have warned that they could constitute harm to the feet, hip, back and even lead to permanent body deformities.

“The negative effects of wearing high heels can be experienced in particular sections of the feet, knees, legs and back,” Dr Onyebuchi Ahoma, a Clinical Psychologist, said adding that ladies who wear heels put themselves through unnecessary misery and pain.

“Some of them cannot even walk straight on heels because they feel uncomfortable but because they think it is chic and trendy they want to endure and ignore the pains they feel,” he said.

Dr Abubakar Muhyi, an Orthopaedic Surgeon with the National Hospital, Abuja, says that high heel shoes have been the leading cause that usually brought female patients to visit orthopaedic doctors.

Muhyi says that the constant wearing of shoes with high heels or narrow toes have led to a high incidence in corrective foot operations.


According to him, this is what happens when women choose fashionable footwear over health, and many of them aren’t even aware that they are causing harm to their health.

“Years of wearing heels can lead to bunions or other infractions of the toe and calf. These signs often surface in middle aged women.

“When a woman is walking on heels, she is basically walking on the balls of her feet. The ball of the foot will experience intense pressure and this pressure more than doubles with every inch in the height of shoe heel.

“Ankle injuries are always a threat and the degree of injuries can extend from sprains to fractures. Calluses, corns and bunions can be formed on feet due to high heels, especially if the shoes are tight or walked on for long periods.

“Metatarsalgia is a condition affecting the ball of the foot, where all the weight is concentrated on when a woman is in heels.

“Hammertoes is a condition where the toes are maintained in downward curled position because of the continual confinement of the feet in the high heels.

“The muscles of the feet become tight and are unable to stretch and straighten when out of the shoes.

“Women may complain of numbness, sharp pain and burn in the toes and ball of the foot when wearing high heeled shoes -- all of which are symptoms of `Morton’s Neuroma’ which is the inflammation of the tissue surrounding the nerve between the third and fourth toes,’’ he told NAN.

Dr Babalola Olatunji, a Consultant Orthopaedic and Trauma Surgeon with the National Orthopaedic Hospital, Igbobi (NOHIL), Lagos, says that high heels cause much more pressure on the knees than what the knees are designed for, and could give rise to a condition called osteoarthritis as well as other joint disorders.

Olatunji noted that women who wear high heels frequently have a higher incidence of degenerative joint disease of the knees.

This is because they cause a decrease in the normal rotation of the foot which puts more rotation stress on the knee.

He says that a similar condition could occur with the Achilles tendon where it could retain its shortened state even when a woman is not wearing high heels.

``The calves will tend to retain the contracted and shortened state due to the feet being in high heels. The calf muscles may become difficult or virtually impossible to straighten without medical intervention.

``High heels can cause a change in the way the muscles and tendons work together while walking. Normally, a tendon stretches and shortens, making walking easy on the muscles of the calf.

``However, heels wearing can cause the tendons, especially the Achilles tendon to shorten, leaving the strain on the muscles of the calf to do all the work.

``They can cause foot pain, increase likelihood of sprains and fractures, and make the calves look more rigid and sinewy.

They can also create foot deformities, causing an unsteady gait, shorten the wearer’s stride and can also render the wearer unable to run,’’ he said.

Another Orthopaedic and Trauma Surgeon at NOHIL, Lagos, Dr Akintayo

Akindele, is of the opinion that regular wearing of high heel shoes could affect the body posture of a woman.

``The increased weight on the toes caused the body to tilt forward and to compensate, you lean backwards and overarch your back creating a posture that can strain your knees, hips and lower back.

``Because the feet will be in a fixed position, the woman will have to bend her spine in the lower back more to keep her balance.

``Some women may wonder where certain back, shoulder and neck pain may come from. Well, high heels are a prime cause of such pain in the torso,’’ he added.

Akindele says that with each inch added to a heel, greater problems could arise, but there are also ways to wear heels more safely.... So, if you insist on earing high heels and you are concerned about muscle and joint strains, his advice is simple: “I am not telling people they shouldn’t wear heels, but should, maybe wear them in moderation and alternate with other flat shoes.

“Women who wear high heels can take them off when feeling uncomfortable, while driving or sitting at their desk at work. Try, if possible to ease back a bit on the high footwear.

``Wear high heels maybe once or twice a week. And if that’s not practical or desirable, try to remove the heels whenever possible.

``Settle for shoes that are light and comfortable and don’t have a tight area for the toes. Also, women must stray from tempting selections with a high heel. In the long run, your feet will thank you for your efforts.’’

In spite of the fuss over high heel shoes for Nigerian women, Miss Juliet Igwe, a final year student of Tai-Solarin University of Education, Ijebu Ode, Ogun, says that such shoes are like a ``Fashion Mantra’’ for her.

She adds that they complete her total appearance, beauty and self esteem.

“I love wedge heels, they make you walk elegantly and you feel this aura of confidence that completes your feminine personality. Whether they are associated with any form of health risk, I am not aware,’’ she said.

Ms Rita Izunobi, the Chief Executive Officer (CEO), Ritz Make-up and Décor, says high heel shoes are an essential aspect of a lady’s dressing.

“For a working class lady or a lady who deals with the corporate world, heels are a must wear to greatly enhance your personal standing and gait.

“I heard they could cause back pain, but I have never experienced any,’’ Izunobi told NAN.

A civil servant, Mrs Titi Tela, is of the opinion that high heels could be uncomfortable but inevitable when it comes to a woman’s wardrobe.

“Many women wear them to look and feel sexy, professional, or to boost confidence, but most ladies carry flat slip-ons or shoes in their bags to alternate because these heels can be very discomforting and you do not have a choice but to slip out of them,’’ she said.

Mr Joe Onalo, an engineer, thinks that ladies who wear high heels look attractive.

“I admire ladies on high heels because they have a way of catchingone ’s fancy, attention and admiration,’’ he said. 


NAN Features

By Femi Ogunshola and Jacinta Nwachukwu


A victim of human trafficking, simply called Blessing, describes her experience with a human trafficker as miserable.

Narrating her ordeal, she recalled that she had a misunderstanding with her parents sometimes ago and she had to leave the house. She said she eventually identified an old friend that introduced her to a man who promised to get her a job abroad.

“I met the man called Ugochukwu and we had discussions among other ladies on how to get employments. This is the only thing I heard and we embarked on a journey.

“During the journey, he took us through a lot of suffering, hunger almost killed us and it got to a stage that we asked him to bring us back to Nigeria because we couldn’t withstand the situation.

“We later found ourselves in Mali, but through enquiries from some ladies in the same dilemma in Mali, we discovered that Ugochukwu had brought us for sex business. He handed us over to a woman whose job is to manage ladies brought from Nigeria to Mali for prostitution to assess them and prove that they are useful for the business.

“Thereafter, we were, on many occasions, forced to sleep with men, I pleaded to be free but the plea did not work because the woman monitored our movements in collaboration with the country’s police authority.

“There is no escape route; all the car owners at motor parks have also been placed on notice to report any stranger, especially Nigerian ladies, that want to travel out of the country,” she explained.

She also recalled that she escaped through a Senegal-based Nigerian woman who came to Mali for business and agreed to help her after explaining her ordeal.

Analysts observe that cases of human trafficking such as Blessing’s are rampant irrespective of the rating of human trafficking as a serious crime and a grave violation of human rights. 

They cite a recent report by the International Labour Organisation and the UN Office on Drugs and Crime that no fewer than 21 million people are trapped in trafficking.

They explain that human trafficking involves recruitment, transportation, transfer, harbouring or receiving of persons by means of threat or force to have control over them for the purpose of exploitation.

Expressing concern on the alarming rate of human trafficking, Mr Mohammed Babandede, Deputy Comptroller-General, Nigeria Immigration Service (NIS), called for urgent action against the trend.

Quoting a report by the National Agency for the Prohibition of Trafficking in Persons (NAPTIP), he said that trafficking for sexual exploitation was on the increase because of ignorance and unemployment, among other factors.

Babandede assured the public that the NIS would soon issue a booklet containing advice and information for potential travellers on the danger of trafficking in persons and smuggling of migrants. 

According to him, the booklet will be given to all Nigerians that are collecting Nigerian passport and will also be made available at borders.

In addition to this measure, the Chief of Mission, International Organisation for Migration, Ms Enira KrdZalic, solicited sensitisation of the public to the ills of human trafficking. She observed that public enlightenment was indispensable in the fight against trafficking in persons.

Corroborating this view point, Mrs Titi Abubakar, the founder of Women Trafficking and Child Labour Eradication Foundation, said that children should get proper enlightenment on how to avoid being deceived by human traffickers.

She also advised that people should eschew greed and quest for riches, observing that the traffickers used these platforms for luring people into the unlawful business.

In the same vein, Mr Joseph Famakin, Lagos State Zonal Commander, NAPTIP, advised parents to pay attention to the activities of their children and give them quality training.

He, nonetheless, assured the public that the agency would continue to do all it could to enlighten the public on the tactics and signs that human trafficker could use to deceive people.

Irrespective of this, Mr Monday Ubani, a lawyer, said there should be more enlightenment programmes at the rural areas where traffickers’ activities were rampant.

“The level of enlightenment is not enough to reach out to the rural areas. Some of them are not aware of the dangers and the legal consequences of trafficking. 

“We need to do more to educate the people because child abuse and baby factories are all over the country,” he said.

Another lawyer, Mr Spurgeon Ataene, said that in addition to enlightenment campaign at the grassroots, security agents should be proactive in fighting the war against trafficking.

He urged human rights organisations to collaborate with relevant anti-trafficking agencies for effective fight against human trafficking.

In her view, Rev Sister Laurencia Daniel, a counsellor, observed that the most common factors responsible for trafficking in persons included poverty, lack of human rights, greed, civil unrest and natural disasters, among others.

She said that women should be enlightened that indulging in prostitution would take away their dignity.

“The danger in prostitution is that it takes away the human dignity; you become vulnerable to diseases. Human trafficking can only stop if one should be contented with what one has and avoid greed and quest for quick riches, because, at times, these are the things that lure people into evil desire,” she said.

Daniel alerted the public that trafficking in persons was being carried out as a network of agents who positioned themselves at every strategic point to recruit victims.

“There is need for the law enforcement agents and the civil society groups on trafficking to work in unity to successfully curb the crime, “ she said.

By and large, she called on governments at all levels to address the challenges of unemployment, economic deprivation, poverty and lack of social security as methods of fighting trafficking in persons.

                                                                                                                     NAN Features