High-heeled shoes don't just leave women with blistered toes and sore arches. They can actually curse them with a lifetime of health issues, experts say.

Heels-high or low-are bad for your feet, knees, hips and back, said Lisa Lowery, an orthopedic surgeon in Columbus. The problem, she said, is that for every millimeter a woman's heel is above her forefoot, it throws off her center of gravity. In order to balance, then, a woman carries her weight in her knees and sticks out her abdomen and posterior.

Combine that odd posture with painful corns and calluses caused when the body tries to protect itself from pressure points-especially in shoes with pointy toes-and many women land in doctors' offices with a laundry list of complaints.

"When I tell them, 'There's nothing wrong with your foot, it's your footwear,' they'd rather have their [calluses] cut off than change their shoes," Lowery said.

Eventually, some women require surgery on painful corns and calluses. Others require more extensive surgery on their backs, hips or knees. Sometimes, the damage is permanent.

So what's a fashionista to do?

"Lower is better than higher," Lowery said. "But it's a lesser degree of bad."


THE SNEAKER ALTERNATIVE
Sure, sneakers are best for our feet. But not a lot of women want to wear them with everything in their closets. Easton Shoes, located on Henderson Road in Upper Arlington, is known for its comfortable, well-made shoes. Co-owner Marcia Comeras carefully selects what her shop carries, looking for hand-sewn, hand-nailed shoes with plenty of cushion, good arch support and heels lower than two inches.

You'll pay more for the fine craftsmanship and luxury materials (pumps start at about $175), but the difference, Comeras said, is big. "The arch support decreases the fatigue in the lower back," she said. "And the natural materials keep the foot cool and dry."

DITCH THE FLIP-FLOPS, TOO!
Although they're flat, flip-flops also can cause foot problems-particularly planter fasciitis, a stabbing pain in the heel. It's caused when the tissue that connects your heel to your toes become inflamed, said Judith Baumhauer, a professor at the Strong Foot and Ankle Institute at the University of Rochester Medical School and a member of the American Orthopaedic Foot and Ankle Society. "Once you have it," Baumhauer said, "it's tough to get rid of."