I Wore Heels In My 20s And My Feet Are Paying For It In My 40s

by Colleen Dilthey Thomas
Peter Dazeley/Getty

When I was in my 20s and 30s, I wore heels. Stilettos. They were high and they were sleek and I loved them. I would have rather been caught dead than wear a pair of flats. Heels made my legs look longer and my waist look smaller. I loved the look. And I wore it everyday. And now that I am in my 40s, I am paying for it.

People say that when you turn 40, your life goes to shit. Your eyes stop working, things start cracking, and you have pain in places you didn’t know that you could have pain. One morning I woke up and put one foot on the floor, like normal, but when I went to put down foot number two, I felt like I had scorching hot nails being pushed through the bottom of my foot. I could hardly stand up. And I could only walk on the ball of my foot. The second my heel touched the ground it was instant pain. What do I do when I am in that kind of pain? I call my mother, of course.

I explained to her, very dramatically, what was happening and her response was concerning. “Uh oh. That doesn’t sound good.” No shit! “I have had that and it sounds like plantar fasciitis.”

I didn’t like the name from the get go. It reminded me of a plantar wart, which is just disgusting, so I didn’t even want to know what a fasciitis was. She suggested I call her podiatrist and make an appointment.

Well, first of all, let me tell you that I was the youngest person in this office by about 40 years. Evidently the podiatrist is the hip place to hang out for seniors in Velcro shoes. I looked around and they were all wearing very similar white tennis shoes with the familiar sticky strap. OMG, was I going to have to have Velcro shoes? I started to get concerned.

The doctor called me in and told me to take off my shoes. First, he asked for a history and I explained that it had come on suddenly a few weeks before and was really starting to bother me. He did some examining, some measuring, and he manipulated my foot and my toes. Then he asked the question that changed everything,

“Do you wear high heels?”

“Well, occasionally. I mean, I have kids and I stay home, so I mostly wear tennis shoes or flip flops.”

“Did you wear high heels before you had kids?” he prodded.

“Pretty much every day.”

“Well then, that’s your answer. You have developed plantar fasciitis from years in heels. It’s pretty common, actually.”

He immediately examined, then insulted, my tennis shoes. He said that they were not supportive and they were making my problem even worse. Gone were the days of fashionable hot pink sneaks. I was fitted for orthotics and sent off with a prescription for tennis shoes. Did you know that was even a thing? I sure didn’t.

I went to a shoe store and met with a pedorthist whose job is to help people like me find the correct shoes that not only fit their feet, but that will help to mitigate future problems. She was very thorough and extremely helpful. I tried on all sorts of shoes and could tell a big difference in the way that my feet felt. It was amazing. After a few weeks, the pain was virtually gone once I had the right equipment. The shoes I picked weren’t the prettiest, but they weren’t white, and God help me, not Velcro. I felt like that was a win.

So back to the way that I ruined my feet, it was the heels. According to, “High heel shoes also put strain on the arch of the foot and cause it to be put in an unnatural position for an extended amount of time. The result is tightening and shortening of the Achilles tendon, putting the wearer at risk of developing plantar fasciitis.”

So how do you prevent it? Here are a few ways that recommends.

Warm Up Before You Exercise

This is a simple one, but something that we sometimes avoid. It’s easier to just get right to the workout. If you don’t properly stretch your muscles prior to working out, they are termed cold and do not easily stretch. This makes them more prone to injury and less supportive of other muscles and tendons.

Get Yourself A Good Pair Of Shoes

No, they may not be the hip sneakers you see on Instagram, but the right pair of shoes can help to prevent the development of plantar fasciitis. You want shoes that fit you correctly, that cushion your soles and don’t let your heel move around too much. This includes your beloved heels. If you have to wear them, let your feet relax a bit before you hit the gym. Switching from a sexy stiletto to a supportive athletic shoe is no good. And you’re going to hate it, but leave the flip-flops for the beach. Yes, they are easy to grab and go, but they just don’t offer support. And don’t go barefoot.

Accessorize Your Shoes The Right Way

Don’t be mistaken, orthotics are not just for senior citizens or people with chronic foot conditions. They are a great way to help prevent plantar fasciitis. All you need to do is put some inserts for high arches, or even heel seats that can take your shoes to the next level without paying a fortune for orthotic shoes.

If You’re Going To Run, Go Soft

Running is a great cardio exercise, but in order to keep your feet healthy, you need to choose soft surfaces. A track is great, or maybe even a groomed path in a park instead of just hitting the pavement in your neighborhood. The softer the surface, the less impact, stress, and inflammation it will cause to your fascia. Plus, you have less of a chance of landing wrong and injuring a ligament or tendon.

Know Your Limits

We all want to be our best selves all the time, but sometimes our best self just doesn’t feel right. If your feet are hurting you, listen. Take things slow when starting a new workout routine. Start at a lower intensity and slowly increase over time. Don’t overdue it. You’ll end up injured, frustrated and ready to give up. Slow and steady is the way to go.

Keep Your Body Moving

It only takes 10 to 15 minutes a day to keep your muscles and ligaments limber, supportive and free of plantar fasciitis. Take a brisk walk, a little yoga, or evening running around the yard with the kids. These are all good ways to keep your feet moving.

When your feet hurt, it throws your whole body off. If you start to develop signs of plantar fasciitis, don’t be afraid to see a doctor. They can give you great stretches to try out, inserts for your shoes, or if you need it direct you to physical therapy. It’s totally worth it — trust me! Plus, there are some cute supportive shoes on the market today so you don’t have to go with those white Velcro monsters. Unless of course you want to match your grandma. Hey, you do you.