Michael van Straten
Michael van Straten

Fashion Victims

Fashion can be harmful to your health. Being a fashion victim is one thing but when keeping up with the celebrities means putting your health at risk, it's an entirely different matter. Bunions, backache, pains in the neck and thrush can all follow in the wake of high heeled shoes, shoulder bags and thongs.

Don't Be An Ugly Sister

When Prince Charming turned up with the glass slipper, the ugly sisters did everything they could to force their oversized feet into the tiny shoe. It seems to me that our world is populated by ugly sisters desperately trying to wear fashionable shoes and hang the consequences. As usual celebrity women are leading the field in their absurd quest for fashion. They're having liposuction, collagen injections, orthopaedic operations and even plastic surgery on their feet, just so they can wear a pair of Jimmy Choo's or shoe horn themselves into the latest creation from L.K. Bennett. Where they lead the high street follows and high heeled winkle pickers are now the height of fashion.

Don't do it! The narrow pointed shoe compresses the toes together and forces the big toe to bend towards the second toe, eventually squeezing the second toe up between the big toe and third toe. This causes a bunion, deformity of the second toe and corns on the top of the second toe where it's pressed against the shoe. The little toe is squeezed inwards and also develops corns on its outside edge. Adding high heels alters the way your weight is distributed through the foot. Put your bare foot on the ground and you'll see that the main points of contact are the flat of the heel, the underneath of the tips of the toes and the soft pads in front of the ball of the foot where the toes begin. Now stand on tiptoe. The weight ends up on the tips of your toes and the knuckle joints where they join the foot. This causes hammer toes with corns on the ends, damage to the nerves in the ball of the foot and compression of all the small joints in the top of the foot.

The weight in your knee shifts to the front part of the joint where it eventually damages the cartilage, leading to arthritis. In order to stop yourself falling forward onto your face you have to push your shoulders back which accentuates the curve at the bottom of the spine. This increases the pressure in the back part of the spinal joints squashing the discs and pushing them forward. Eventually you'll have an arthritic spine, back pain and sciatica. Is it worth it?

Most women like to be fashionable. If you're going out for an evening take your high heeled shoes with you and change in the car or the ladies. But don't wear them every day, don't wear them to work and don't wear them for a trip to the shopping centre – if you do you'll pay a hefty price in years to come.

Your feet cover 70,000 miles in a lifetime and every mile you walk shifts around 100 tons. Three-quarters of the population have foot problems, and most of you ignore them with a serious effect on your mobility in later life. Foot exercises are really important to maintain the flexibility of all the tiny joints and vital if you want to minimise the risk of back problems as you get older. Keep your feet happy with these simple barefoot exercises.

- Practice picking up a pencil by gripping it with your curled toes - do it while you read your paper at breakfast time, while watching TV or even under the desk at work. It's harder than it sounds!
- With your feet straight out in front of you stretch a large wide elastic band between your two big toes. Start with heels together and feet pointing straight up, then turn your feet out, keeping heels together till they're in the 'ten to two' position. This stretches the big toe joints and helps prevent bunions. Repeat 15 times.
- Using a large wooden rolling pin, place your heel on the ground and toes on the rolling pin, roll the foot forward till the toes are on the ground and heel is on the rolling pin. Repeat 20 times with each foot.

When buying shoes they should feel comfortable when you try them on – bits that pinch or rub won't go away. Your feet swell during the day so never buy shoes in the morning, they'll be much too tight by the evening. Most people have one foot slightly larger than the other so don't be vain, buy the size that fits the larger foot. Always make sure that the shoes are half an inch longer than your longest toe when standing and that the widest part of your foot fits comfortably into the widest part of the shoe.

Shoulderbags are a Pain in the Neck

As soon as you put a bag on your shoulder you raise the shoulder to stop it sliding off. Even if there's nothing in the bag everyone makes this postural change, and as most of you always put the bag on the same shoulder the long term consequences can be disastrous. As soon as you raise one shoulder your body tends to fall to the opposite side and you compensate by curving the lower part of your back towards the raised shoulder. The middle of the spine then bends away from the raised shoulder and your neck curves to keep your head above your bottom and your centre of gravity in the right place. Your spine ends up like a letter S. The uneven muscular strains then start to cause aches and pains, particularly in the neck and shoulder muscles and this often triggers headaches.

While all this is happening, your pelvis develops a tilt effectively raising one hip and shortening the leg. This means you walk with an imperceptible limp, creating uneven wear on your hip joints and abnormal weight loading on the lower part of the spine. Wear and tear, arthritis and backache soon follow. Imagine how much worse this is if you are already wearing very high heels.

Children are at even worse risk as they end up carrying huge bags full of books on one shoulder. I examined a whole class of 15 year olds who without exception carried their books on one shoulder - even those with sensible rucksacks hung them from one strap - and nearly all of these youngsters were already showing slight distortions of their posture and most complained of having backache and neck pain at some time or other.

If you must wear a shoulder bag, put the strap over your head and carry the bag under the opposite arm - it's more difficult to snatch so safer anyway. The fashionable pear shaped bags with one wide strap are designed to be worn this way and much better for your posture.

It Started with J-Lo

It started with J-Lo and carried on with Kylie. The world's obsession with these two famous bottoms is probably what triggered the ever-growing popularity of the thong. Till recently this type of underwear was the preserve of models, strippers and pole dancers but now everyone's wearing them, and seemingly without regard to shape, size or age. Whether it's for the beach or the bedroom, thongs too can threaten your health.

The skin of the buttocks is seldom exposed to the sun's rays but in their quest for acres of sun bronzed posterior women flock to the beach and bear almost all. If you do take extra care to apply plenty of high factor non-irritant sun protection cream, to your buttocks and reapply at least every two hours as this tender area is very easily sunburnt. This kind of sun damage not only increases the risk of skin cancer but speeds up the ageing process of the skin and will leave you with a bottom like a wrinkled prune. What's more nothing will put you off your holiday romance as quickly as two slabs of well done rump.

As far as underwear is concerned, thongs can be a major problem, particularly for women who have a history of recurrent cystitis or thrush. The thong acts just like a wick allowing harmful bacteria to travel from your bottom to the vaginal opening. This is even more likely in hot weather when these areas will be excessively warm and moist. The ensuing vaginal and urinary infections will then keep coming back as long as you continue to wear your thong.

Synthetic fibres increase the likelihood of infection so you're better off wearing ordinary knickers or best of all the looser French knickers which also avoid the problem of the VPL. Make sure that your underwear is made of pure natural fibres like cotton or silk as they allow free passage of air and moisture.

Most women, and their partners too, enjoy fashion and there's no reason why following it should be a problem as long as you use common sense and don't allow yourself to become a fashion health victim.


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