29 September 2009

“I still have my feet on the ground, I just wear 
better shoes.”
    - Oprah Winfrey

The publication in May 2009 of a relatively non-wavemaking medical study went largely unnoticed by major media outlets. The study, titled "Foot pain: Is current or past shoewear a factor?" was funded by the American College of Rheumatology Research and Education Foundation Abbott Health Professional Graduate Student Research Preceptorship, grants from the National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases and National Insititute on Aging, and another grant from the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute's Framingham Heart Study. The eight study authors come from Boston University School of Public Health, the Institute for Aging Research, Hebrew SeniorLife, Harvard Medical School, and the Hospital for Special Surgery.

This bunch of geniuses decided that the best use of the available resources was to examine the condition of foot pain, relative to the type of shoewear worn. They selected a cross-section of 3,378 people from a local Massachusetts community. Each person in the study completed a foot examination between 2002 and 2008. The investigators asked, "On most days, do you have pain, aching or stiffness in either foot?" The responses they received from the subjects were duly measured and categorized, with each person being assigned as wearing "good," "average," or "poor" type shoes.

They adjusted the results for age and weight of the subject.

Lo and behold, they came to the conclusion that when compared with "average" shoes, women who wore "good" shoe types in the past were 67% less likely to report pain. They reported that there was no association between foot pain and shoes in men, "possibly" because fewer than 2% of men wore "bad" shoe types. It doesn't say in the abstract what the "good" or "bad" shoe types are, but it's a pretty good bet the "bad" ones are high heels (anything over an inch), ill-fitting shoes (pinch you or fall right off), or designed for species other than humans (trust me, I've seen these on Rodeo Drive and Fifth Avenue alike). According to the New York Times reportage, the average age of the women in the study was 66.

Well, d-u-u-hhhh.

They could have reached that same conclusion a whole lot faster and with a lot less expenditure of time and money, had they simply asked me. I'd have been happy to tell them that hell, yes, wearing foot coverings that are at least one full size too small in either direction, and then wobbling around in them for fifteen or twenty years on 3- or 4-inch stiletto spikes, would play havoc with foot bones, back bones, hip bones, knees, and ankles.

How could it not?

So why is this such hot news today, several months after the fact? Because Arthritis & Rheumatism plans to publish the study in the October issue of the journal, is why. I howled when I read the quote from Alyssa B. Dufour, the study's principal author.
    “I think women need to really pay attention to how a shoe fits, and realize that what you’re buying could have potential effects on your feet for the rest of your life,” said the paper’s lead author, Alyssa B. Dufour, a doctoral student in biostatistics at Boston University. “It’s important to pay attention to size and width, and not just buy it because it’s cute.”
Well, double-d-u-u-hhh.

I wonder exactly how much funding was necessary to draw this remarkable conclusion?

Excuse me. My Manolos and I have an appointment with my podiatrist.


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