After wrecking the feet and knees of millions of women, Manolos, Jimmy Choos and other high-end shoes have finally been upstaged. The up-stager — if there is such a word — is the ugly and ubiquitous Crocs, the erstwhile favourite of kindergartens, old-age homes and Disneyworld and now worn by supermodel Raquel Zimmermann in the September issue of the French Vogue.
Of course, this is not the first time the clunky shoes have made it big, Doc Martens being the classic example, but the many-hued Crocs have been regarded as a style affront by Beautiful People ever since they became available in adult sizes. Zimmermann’s flame-coloured ones have sparked a worldwide debate on whether it is finally okay to wear Crocs without embarrassing yourself and those with you. Perhaps, suggests a blogger. Zimmermann wore them because she was posing “in a room with sharp rusty screws on the ground and the stylist figured they may as well use them to protect her feet while making an ironic fashion statement”.
Whatever the reason for Vogue’s tryst with Crocs, it is good news for women who have been forced to wear heeled shoes fully aware that it would make them hobble around with a painful knee and back.
Studies show that for people over the age of 50, knee pain causes more disability — hampering daily activities such as walking or climbing — than any other disease. With this limitation in activity, individuals develop risks for becoming overweight or becoming less active, which together put them at the risk of a host of diseases such as heart disease, diabetes, and obesity.
Apart from injury and disease, choosing bad footwear is among the most common causes of pain in the knees, ankles and feet. Heels push the centre of gravity of the body forward, pushing the hips and spine out of alignment and increase the pressure on the knees and feet. This deviation from a more neutral position increases stress on the knee tissues and may cause injury. Heels also force the calf muscles to contract to adjust to the angle of the high heels, causing them to shorten and tighten over time.
Unlike heels, flat and comfortable shoes — read ugly — allow full motion at the foot/ankle and decrease stress on the knees, hips and spine by keeping them in the natural position.
Having said that, I have emphasised here that everyone’s posture and biomechanics are different, which basically means that all of us have different shoe requirements. Comfortable shoes, such as Crocs, Birkenstock, or athletic shoes may decrease knee pain, but they are not the only ones you can opt for to pamper your feet. Any kind of shoe that improves the function of your knees, especially when you walk a lot on hard surfaces, and feet, is fine. So if flip-flops work for you, so be it. They are in style anyway.