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Head over heels about stilettos

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High heels

High heels

Emily O'Donnell pictured at home with a pair of favourite shoes

Emily O'Donnell pictured at home with a pair of favourite shoes

Sonia Harris in her heels

Sonia Harris in her heels

Pictures: VIPIRELAND.COM

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High heels

Looking slimmer; feeling sexier, and appearing more confident - there is method behind the madness of high heels. Because as countless Irish women will attest: they make us feel good.

However, we could also be causing long-term damage. Osteoarthritis, which affects some 400,000 people in this country, is twice as common in women as it is in men - and now one Stanford University study has found that walking in even modest 3in heels causes significant changes to gait.

"High-heel use, especially in combination with additional weight, may contribute to increased osteoarthritis risk in women," the California researchers suggested.

Meanwhile, Dr Brian Gaffney, Medical Director at the Vhi SwiftCare Clinics, reveals that high-heel injuries are something of a regular occurrence.

"If we omit sports, then heels cause close to a third of all ankle injuries we see in women aged between 21 and 40," he says.

"Ankle injuries can be extremely painful and can take quite a while to heal, particular when they involve ligament or tendon damage, therefore wearers really need to decide if the benefits are worth the risk."

Dr Gaffney adds that if you simply won't be parted from your heels, then at least take extra care, especially on slippery surfaces and on steps, and consider a lower heel.

"Make sure your shoes fit too," he says. "It might seem obvious, but we encounter many patients whose shoes are too big, causing their feet to slide to the front, creating more pressure on the toes and disrupting the user's balance." Still, catwalks this season have been dominated by taller-than-ever footwear and Vogue has already identified heels as being a key 2015 trend. Indeed, glamorous style icons are rarely seen in anything other than towering footwear. Victoria Beckham famously attended the 2011 wedding of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge wearing perilous 6.5in Louboutin pumps. She was also nearly seven months pregnant. Not that I can pass judgement - during my own pregnancy two years ago, I refused to be parted from my heels; though towards my latter weeks I did nod to common sense by sticking to 3in or lower.

Emily O'Donnell is a television presenter and producer. The 31-year-old has long been a fan of towering heels, mixing designer labels with budget buys. She reckons she now has more than 50 pairs in her wardrobe.

Emily explains: "I've always been into heels because at 5ft 5in I'm a bit on the small side. Going to fashion events and being surrounded by all these gorgeous, tall models means you don't leave your heels at home.

"Even though my job involves running around to different filming locations - and, yes, I've had to do horribly embarrassing things like ask a poor cameraman to practically carry me over unsuitable terrain - I'm still sticking with my heels."

The Dubliner, also previously an ambassador for the Walk In My Shoes charity campaign, reckons that her peep-toe, patent Louboutins are her best cost-per-wear purchase: "I've worn them to a heap of events over the years."

She also recently splashed out on a pair of "stunning" Valentino rockstud leather pumps. Emily even tried the style out for size in advance by snapping up a similar pair in Dunnes. "More affordable brands are a great way to road-test a trend," she says.

Sonia Harris (33) runs her own PR company and struggles to tot up just how many shoes she has. "I have shoes in storage," she admits, while putting the final tally at close to 400 pairs.

She also confesses to some incredible splurges. "I'd go into the Brown Thomas sale and emerge with half a dozen or more boxes - all designer stuff. I went to Las Vegas once with my sister and bought 11 pairs from high-end stores. I spent €1,300 on a pair of Jimmy Choos for my 25th birthday."

Sonia goes on to explain that she's more than happy to pick up bargain clothing - but with footwear she can't bear to go budget.

"Although in my line of work, you do have to really look the part," she adds. "I need to look smart and impress clients - and for me that means making sure I always have a great pair of shoes on. Flats don't cut it."

Stiletto-loving women will hardly be surprised that their shoe habit is possibly damaging their health. But when you consider that one 2012 study found that 70pc of Irish women would rather endure the pain of high shoes than wear flats, it's clear that many of us will remain tottering around town for a while longer - even if we occasionally fall down.

Irish Independent