We’ve all been there: You dance the night away in a fierce pair of heels only to wake up in severe pain. Unfortunately, it’s all too easy for the latest fashion trends to turn troublesome. Here, the top 10 culprits, plus simple style-tailoring tips to stop your suffering.
At some point in their lives, up to 20 percent of women experience various degrees of irritable bowel syndrome, says Deborah Coady, MD, of Soho Obstetrics and Gynecology in New York City. If you're prone to bloating, cramping or irregular bowel movements, opt for an outfit that doesn’t require a cinched waist, or simply loosen your belt for a little relief.
To look smaller, women often try to compress their breasts by using minimizing bras. “These are not supportive and cause the breasts to lose firmness,” says “bra whisperer” Susan Nethero, chief fit strategist for Intimacy boutiques. Women may also pull the straps of regular bras too tight. According to Nethero, bra straps should only contribute 10 percent of the bra’s total support. “The average woman is a D-cup or DD and the average breast is 10 to 12 ounces, which is quite a lot of weight on the bust line and shoulder,” says Nethero. Extra weight on the shoulders can lead to headaches, neck strain and numbness in arms and hands. A fit specialist at a bra boutique or department store can help you find the right size and style so you don’t have to sacrifice comfort.
Many women attempt to cover up back fat by buying bras that are too big around. However, bras that are too large will ride up and grab the soft tissue on the back, increasing the appearance of back fat while lending less support. The bra should be level or lower in the back, says Nethero. “Think about it as a seesaw. If the back is low, it will lift the front. If the back is high, the front will sag,” she says.
The primary problem is the narrow toe box, says New York City-based podiatrist, John E. Mancuso, DPM. “Your toes can scrunch up causing them to ‘hammer’ or shorten.” And if they rub against the top of the shoe the tight fit can also lead to ailments such as corns and fungal lesions. Heel height is another problem. According to Mancuso, the higher the heel, the more your weight is thrown forward and placed on the balls of your feet. Women who have thinner cushioning or “fat pads” may experience pain. The key is either limiting stiletto wear or finding a shoe with strong arch support and good weight distribution.
Sheepskin boots are a two-sided coin, says Mancuso. On one hand they’re great because they’re loose, warm and comfortable. On the other, they’re completely unsupportive. Foot arches frequently collapse in boots like these and, according to Mancuso, as the foot arch lowers, the rest of the foot elongates and widens, which can exacerbate bunions and arch injuries.
Without adequate support, your breasts can strain during your workout. Nethero recommends a bra-sized sports bra for structure and support. It will keep your breasts steady and reduce breast bounce by 70 percent. Without support, breast ligaments can become thin and brittle and eventually break. “You cannot re-bulk your breasts once they are strained,” says Nethero. “Only surgery can change that.”
Dangly earrings are an easy way to dress up any outfit, but overuse can cause serious damage, says Adam Kolker, MD, associate clinical professor of surgery at Mount Sinai Medical Center in New York City. “You start with a piercing that has about 5 to 10 mm of skin below it,” he says. “Over time the lower skin will stretch as it is pulled down by the weight.” The tissue expands and the hole can widen making it difficult to sport studs. Heavy earrings can also completely tear through the earlobe, an injury that takes a long time to repair and heal. To spare yourself from trouble, reserve statement earrings for special occasions.
Changing your eye color or even iris shape can be fun for costume parties, but if worn incorrectly vanity contact lenses can become a site for sore eyes. “People think they can walk into a costume shop or flea market and purchase vanity lenses that are safe,” says Susan Mazure, FCLSA, contact lens specialist at Theo E. Obrig, Inc. in New York City. “The truth is many of the lenses sold through these outlets are not FDA-approved and therefore the lenses are not held to the same high standards other manufacturers’ lenses are.” You also need an eye doctor to make sure you have the proper fit. A lens that is too tight can lead to redness, edema, corneal irritation and, occasionally, infections. Too loose and vision will be compromised since wearers will most likely be looking through a portion of the lens that has opaque color or images on it. If you’re interested in vanity lenses, talk to your eye doctor and then follow strict cleansing routines, such as soaking contacts in multi-purpose solutions and changing the solution every every seven days, Mazure says.
“Flips-flops do similar damage as sheepskin boots—they allow the foot to move without guidance, which can collapse arches and cause the plantar fascia ligament that runs along the bottom of the foot to pull, stretch and strain. I have women who say they experience foot pain but that their flip flops are their most comfortable shoes,” says Mancuso. “They don’t realize the damage and pain these shoes can cause.” Choose sandals with a more comfortable mold, such as those made by Dana Davis, recommends Mancuso. “They’re fashionable but made with a better last.”
Although cigarette-style jeans and barely-there underwear are “in,” vaginal and skin infections are always out. “As a vulvar pain specialist I am amazed with the variability in vulvar and vaginal sensitivity, elasticity and toughness among different women,” says Coady. “This is why some women feel fine in thongs and tight jeans and others are very uncomfortable.” For all women, though, tough seams and rough edges on intimate clothing can easily cause small breaks in protective skin layers, which allows for fungal growth and bacterial infections. “The heat and friction of sexual activity can make these infections worse,” Coady says. “I advise using a non-medicinal skin protection without chemicals, like Aquaphor, vitamin E oil, safflower oil, or olive oil on the areas under clothing edges to prevent irritation.”