How following in Barbie’s footsteps could have painful implications for your feet

Margot Robbie’s feet have set the internet ablaze in recent weeks after she featured prominently in the marketing campaign for the new Barbie.

The now-iconic shot of Mrs. Robbie’s perfectly arched feet has been plastered on buses and billboards across the country to promote the much-anticipated movie whose trailer has also racked up 36 million views to date.

Fans eager to see the film and how closely it echoed their own experiences playing with Barbie dolls marveled at how Ms. Robbie’s heels stayed high as if supported by an invisible stiletto.

But striving to fit the “Barbie girl” mold, complete with hot pink sky-high pumps, can lead to damage to feet that goes beyond a little soreness after a long day, experts warn.

Studies show that wearing high-heeled shoes religiously, as about half of women do, strains the calf muscles so much that they can shorten over time by an average of 13 percent. Heels are also known to cause about three million injuries in one year.

Social media and YouTube users went wild when they saw Margot’s feet in a trailer for the upcoming Barbie movie. As the blonde takes her feet off the shoes, viewers see her standing in the Barbie position, which makes it look like she’s wearing an invisible pair of heels — her foot arched and pointy toes

About one-fifth of women have gone to such extreme lengths wearing trendy shoes that they ended up spraining their ankle or tearing a tendon, while one-third suffered a serious fall that damaged many teeth and broke their wrists.

And from 2002 to 2012, emergency department treated 123,355 injuries from high heels, according to researchers at the University of Alabama at Birmingham

The still shot got so much attention that one netizen called it a “movie with Margot Robbie’s feet as a plot point.”

Another said, “I wonder how many people would believe me if I went back a year and told them that Margot Robbie’s feet would be a major plot point in a major Hollywood movie.”

Millions of women are estimated to suffer from pain in their toes and the balls of their feet due to the pressure that elevating the foot puts on those areas, leading to inflammation that hinders normal movements from walking to jumping.

One survey estimated that nearly three-quarters of women wore high heels occasionally or every day. Of that total, 59 percent reported toe pain and 54 percent reported pain in the ball of the foot.

High heels also force the foot, especially the toes, into a downward position that over time causes the arch muscles in the foot to tighten, causing inflammation that can lead to plantar fasciitis, a common condition that causes sharp, stabbing pain in the heel.

A 2013 report in the journal Foot & Ankle International found that in high heel wearers and flat shoe wearers, the former had reduced dorsiflexion ability to the extent that they showed a 17 degree difference from that in flats.

High heels also propel the body forward in a way that pushes the toes down, putting excess pressure on the front of the foot and shortening the calf muscles, but on average about 13 percent.

With prolonged wear, the shorter calf muscles adjust and tighten, increasing the risk of injury such as a calf sprain or Achilles tendinitis.

The downward pressure on the relatively small forefoot makes it difficult to push off the ground and strains the hip flexors at the top of the front of your thighs, which are now working overtime. Contraction of these muscles over time also contributes to long-term lower back pain.

And heels affect more than just the feet. As the calf muscles remain tight and lose the ability to stretch, posture can suffer.

Since the weight is pushed forward to rest mainly on the front of the foot, the upper body must maintain balance by leaning back as a counterweight while the knees are trained more. This changes the alignment of the body, leading to a stiff, unnatural posture.

High heels restrict the mobility of the ankle joint, which bears the weight of the body when standing and is responsible for our ability to lift the foot or walk on our heels, known as dorsiflexion, as well as our ability to stand on tip toes and propel the body forward to walk and run.

Lovers of Barbie-style shoes should reconsider sky-high heels as it puts too much pressure on the forefoot increases with every centimeter – 25 percent even. This means that a 7.5 cm heel puts 75 percent more pressure on the foot than normal.

Despite the very real pain that high-heeled shoes can cause, about 38 percent of women questioned in another survey said they would “wear them anyway if I like them.”

Fans gushed about Ms. Robbie’s ballerina-like ability to hold up her heels even without the support of a stiletto, with one user commenting, “I LOVE THIS.” This seems so funny and fun to watch, I love how they talked about the heels always being on their toes.

Another said, “The way they stuck to the lore of all things Barbie is insane, those heels with no shoes… literally the only way to play Barbie, I can’t wait for this.”

The Barbie trailer opens with a close-up of Ms. Robbie as the toy queen removing the doll’s signature ultra-arched foot from her five-inch heels, and instead of falling, her heels remained in focus.

Those short five seconds of the trailer and a deluge of posters and TV and billboard ads capture a hallmark of the doll that has remained since Barbie was first introduced in 1959.

Renowned director Greta Gerwig revealed that the impossibly high arch wasn’t actually that impossible – she used a photo of Mrs. Robbie’s real feet.

But fans should think twice about mimicking Robbie’s iconic look.

How to choose the best sneakers for your feet?

When shopping for the ideal sports sneaker, don’t automatically go for brand recognition

There are plenty of ways to make sure you choose the right pair for your unique feet

Analyze your gait

  • If your feet roll in with every step, consider a motion control shoe designed for optimal arch support and a firm midsole to improve stability
  • If your feet usually land on the perimeter, a well-cushioned shoe with strong shock absorption is best

Prioritize fit above all else

  • Ill-fitting sneakers cause discomfort, fatigue, joint problems and poor performance
  • It’s a good idea to go to a shoe store to measure the foot exactly and consider different options

Take them for a test drive

  • Buying a pair of running shoes without trying them on first is like buying a car without taking it for a test drive
  • Go for a quick job outside or even in the store (sometimes they even have indoor courts for that) and walk back and forth before making a decision

Information courtesy of Consumer Reports