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WHAT THE HEEL'S GOING ON?

I'm sensing a Revolution of the Amazons.

Tall women beating down on the Manolo Blahniks and Steve Maddens of the footwear fashion world, taking Christian Louboutin and his cronies hostage.

No doubt, just about everybody loves a great pair of high heels. They make you look sexy, slender and super sensational, in general.

But are all these 5-, 6- and even 7-inch heels really that necessary? And what message do they send those over-gifted in the height department?

Sky-high heels have been in vogue for quite a while, taking sizable space in most shoe stores. Last year, in fact, Monsieur Louboutin said his 6- and 7-inch stilettos were selling so well that he planned to introduce an 8-inch platform this fall.

Holy skyscrapers.

For tall girls like me (I'm almost 5-foot-9, which is actually short in the tall category but taller that most), this is hardly good news. Strap on a pair of half-footers, and we may need an oxygen mask.

"The fashion world is killing me,'' declared 6-foot-2 Christine Alexander, noting that it's hard enough to find pants that are long enough.

This footwear phenomenon is not fair. Short girls should not have the luxury of being tall on demand. They already don't have to worry about towering over their date or hitting their head on a ceiling fan. They can hem their slacks, and they get to call themselves petite.

Tall girls, on the contrary, can't shrink for the occasion. Tall today, tall tonight, regardless of footwear. Sure, you can hide pounds or do the opposite and become America's Next Top Model. But what if you're not?

Six-foot-4 Julie Krueger is a customer service manager for a disposable glove manufacturer. Her height doesn't do squat for her at work but certainly gets her noticed, and not always positively. Adding another few inches just isn't an option.

"I love to dress in the current fashion (but) can't do the 4- to 5-inch heels and still fit through a door,'' said Krueger, a member of Tall N Terrific, a social club for tall people.

To compensate, the 43-year-old from South Tampa wears ballet flats and gladiator sandals, which thankfully are in style. Instead of skinny jeans, she opts for wide-legged pants that look good with flats.

She admits it's frustrating.

Keeping up with fashion also can have painful results. Tampa podiatrist Marc Katz said about 10 percent of his patients have problems related to high heels. A few even want surgery to remove the pinky toe to better fit into narrow-toed high heels, a procedure he refuses to do.

"For a lot of people it's such a fashion thing,'' Katz said. "They refuse to take them off.''

Even at 6-foot-2, Alexander, who grew up in St. Petersburg, loves high heels but only wears them sparingly. Put on a pair of super stilettos, and she "would have to build a man to kiss.''

"Us tall people do not blend in with the crowds to begin with and then to put another 5 inches under us?'' she said. "Me, personally, I hate being called Amazon.''

Heal your heels

Wearing super-high heels over extended periods of time can cause painful bunions, hammer toes, ingrown toenails and Morton's neuroma, a nerve irritation in the ball of the foot. For those who insist on wearing heels, Dr. Marc Katz of Tampa offers these tips:

Switch out heels for running shoes when walking longer distances.

Choose a squared-toe shoe over a pointed, narrow one. Open-toed shoes are also preferred over closed-toe styles.

Reduce heels by even an inch to reduce pressure on the ball of the foot.

Select thicker, more stable heels.

Walk barefoot regularly to stretch the leg muscles.

WHAT THE HEEL'S GOING ON? 07/30/09 [Last modified: Thursday, July 30, 2009 5:30am]

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