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Ladies, are you experiencing extreme foot troubles when you step into your stilettos? How about lower back pain or bad knees?

While heels give women a boost in height and even confidence, the adverse effects of wearing them has been demonstrated in several studies.

Extended wear of high heels and continually bending your toes into an unnatural position can cause a range of ailments from ingrown toenails to irreversible damage to leg tendons. When we wear heels, our spine, neck, shoulder, and knees — the entire skeletal structure — tilts forward. All our joints are pushed out of alignment since the body does not get the usual support from the spine, which is our axis and forces the back to form an arc. This affects body posturing besides causing persistent pain in the lower back.

Also, the lifting of your ankle puts your calf muscle and Achilles tendon in a shortened position. This can lead to pain in your ankles, knees and possible arthritis on the knee joint. Also, wearing high heels can cause Plantar Fasciitis, commonly called Policeman’s Heel, when you experience a piercing pain in the sole of the foot, in the region of the heel. This pain is sometimes described as a sensation of stabbing. Additionally, cramming your toes into a narrow toe box can cause nerve damage and bunions.

If switching to flats is not an option, the good news is, by strengthening and stretching the muscles in your feet, legs and back, you can get the proper posture and healthy foot function that will make wearing stilettos relatively pain-free. Whether you wear heels solely on special occasions or rock them every day, these yoga stretches can help ease pain and prevent future injuries.

Self-Myofascial Release for The Calves with a Rolled-up Towel/Yoga Mat

When you use this technique before doing the more traditional stretches below, you will dissolve some of the restrictions in your calf muscles, allowing you to stretch them more effectively.

Fold your towel or yoga mat in half, then roll it up as tightly as possible, starting from the creased end. Kneel with your hips stacked above your knees. Place the rolled-up towel/mat at the backs of your knees, then slowly and carefully sit back onto your heels, wedging the mat between your hamstrings and calves.

Intrinsic Muscles Stretch or Shake Hands with Your Feet

Prevent hammer toes, bunions, neuromas, and stress fractures

Slip the fingers of the opposite hand in between your toes, as if you were to “shake hands” with your foot. Use fingers 2-5 to do this and leave your thumb out. By just holding your toes in this position, you will be stretching the muscles in between the long bones (metatarsals) of your foot. Hold this position for 30 seconds. Then pull the toes down so you stretch the top of the toes and foot. Hold the toes in this position for 5-10 seconds then bend them all upward, enough to feel a nice stretch in the bottom of your foot, not just the toes. Repeat 10 times.

This stretch helps to create space in between each metatarsal and to lengthen the toes.

Ankle Alphabet

Strengthen your ankles and improve range of motion

Use your big toe to trace each letter of the alphabet in the air, moving only the foot and ankle. Write all the capital letters of the alphabet. The motion should come from your foot and ankle, not your hip or knee. Move the foot and ankle slowly, writing the letters as large as possible and in a way that’s comfortable for you.

Foot and Ankle Extensors Stretch

Prevent shin splints and stress fractures of the feet and shin bones

Kneel on both knees. Place a rolled-up hand towel on the floor under your feet. Position the towel just under where your toes meet the top of your foot. Gently sit your hips back onto your heels until you feel a pull across the top of your feet and ankles. You may also feel the stretch up along the front of your shins. Hold this position for 30 seconds and repeat twice.

This will stretch the tendons and muscles along the tops of your feet and shins. This stretch will also open the tops of your feet, so they look nice in high heels.

— Nerry Toledo is a Dubai-based yoga instructor. She conducts regular give-what-you-can community classes with the goal of making yoga more accessible for everyone. For schedules and locations, go to nerryfit.com.

DISCLAIMER: The heels in the visuals are used for illustrative purposes only.