Sarah Goodwin

Kathi Ovnic
Holly Korschun
August 20, 1998


Back-to-school shoe shopping this year means, for many parents of pre-teen and adolescent girls, finding a compromise to the trendy BIG heels and platform soles inspired by the Spice Girls, says Robert Bruce, M.D., a pediatric orthopaedic surgeon at the Emory University School of Medicine.

High heels are especially inappropriate for growing girls, in whom the skeletal system is still developing, he says. Wearing shoes with a two-inch heel and little sole under the forefoot, he says, puts the ankle at about a 30 degree angle to the ground--and at risk for ankle problems. He compares it to choosing to walk around all day barefoot on one's tip toes. The arch gets little support, and if the toe box is narrow and pointed, the toes are squeezed together--putting girls at risk for bunions (which may require surgery) and other foot deformities, including eventual arthritis of the big (great) toe. Sandal-type high heeled shoes with straps are even more difficult for girls to negotiate because of decreased ankle and arch stability.

"I see a lot of (young patients with) foot pain," Dr. Bruce says. "Whenever I see adolescents, even boys, for foot pain, I evaluate their footware--often finding the source of their complaints. Well-fitted footware is important for comfort and general health of one's feet."

Thankfully, he says, many of the 70ish-style shoes popular now among girls sport wide, open toe boxes and have raised soles under the forefoot.

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