By Kelly Fleming, Lifestyle Editor
Skinny jeans, belts, and high heels; what do these staple fashion items have in common? They all may pose a threat to your health. While certain articles of clothing can make you feel good about yourself, they can also affect your body in negative ways. People have been wearing harmful clothing items in pursuit of a fashionable look for hundreds of years. In the Victorian era, women wore corsets so restricting that they caused fainting and organ damage, and women practiced painful foot binding in China as early as the 12th century. We’ve moved on from these beauty extremes in modern times, but some of our fashion choices can still be problematic. While we’re often told that “beauty is pain,” but perhaps we should draw a line when what we do for the sake of beauty impacts our well-being.
Skinny jeans are seen as a closet necessity for women, with the ability to be dressed up or down for almost any occasion. However, multiple studies have found that your go-to pants may be an unhealthy fashion choice in some cases. Skinny jeans, particularly those that are high-waisted, can lead to heartburn and bloating. This happens when the pants constrict your abdomen, relaxing the lower end of the esophagus and allowing the contents of your stomach to shift upwards, impeding the digestion of food. Some studies have even found evidence that too-tight skinny jeans can constrict blood flow in your legs, causing swelling and damaged muscle and nerve fibers in severe cases. This extreme only happens in rare cases, but is an indication that tight pants may be more harmful than we think. In order to avoid negative health effects from skinny jeans, make sure to buy a pair that doesn’t feel too snug, and experiment with looser fitting styles of pants.
You’re probably already aware of the pain that comes from your favorite pair of high heels, and the relief that comes with taking them off at the end of a long night out. Heels can injure more than just your feet, though, extending to your ankles, knees, hips, and lower back. When you’re wearing these shoes, you take shorter strides that extend more stress to the rest of your body because your heel is not absorbing the impact of your step. This extra impact causes immediate shock to the ball of your foot, wearing out the plantar fat pad, which protects the inner workings of your feet. Wearing narrow-toed high heels can also pinch nerves that connect with the lower half of your foot, possibly leading to a condition called Morton’s Neuromas, which decreases sensation in the toes. While taking off your heels may be the best feeling in the world, removing your heels suddenly stretches out an Achilles Tendon that has been shortened all day, increasing susceptibility to Achilles Tendonitis. There is a myriad of problems associated with high heels, so it is best for women to take some precautions when wearing them. Try a shorter pair of heels for more frequent use, and make sure to switch it up with shoes with better arch support such as sneakers, which spread the stress of each step through your arches. If you wear heels to work every day, try wearing more comfortable shoes on your commute and changing when you arrive.
On the flip side, flip flops can also lead to muscle soreness and lower back pain.While the extreme angle of heels causes stress, the flatness of flip flops hurts your feet because of the utter lack of arch support. The absence of arch support can cause you to change your posture and stride in an unhealthy way and make tripping and falling more likely. You interrupt your natural stride due to the strain on your toes, and also receive less impact absorption when your heel strikes the ground. This leads a similar risk to the fat pad as was previously discussed with high heels. Flip flops also cause you to clench your toes when you walk to keep them on. When worn for very long periods of time, this clenching can in extreme cases lead to a deformity called hammer toes, where the toes are curved downwards and must be corrected with surgery. If you live in an area where flip flops are always an option, make sure to switch it up with sneakers. Flip flops, often made out of porous materials that hold moisture, can also lead to bacterial infections, causing infections like athlete’s foot and warts. To avoid this possibility, buy flip flops made out of plastic or other materials that will not absorb moisture so easily. Try to buy flip flops with some arch support, replace them every few months, and don’t wear them every day of the summer.
A belt can be the finishing touch on any outfit, creating a polished look and the illusion of a smaller waist. However, be sure not to secure your belt too tightly, especially when eating a big meal. A too-tight belt can cause acid reflux by constricting your stomach during the digestive process, and a study has even found that it can increase the risk of throat cancer. The belt puts pressure on a valve between the stomach and throat, allowing stomach acid to move upwards. Stomach acid can damage throat cells and increase the risk of cancer, especially in those who are overweight. Loosening your belt after dinner can help diminish this risk, and a good rule of thumb is to check and see if you can comfortably fit two fingers between your stomach and waistband. If you can’t, it’s time to loosen your belt.
This one may come as a surprise, but even handbags can have a negative effect on your health. Many women’s bags exceed 6 pounds, causing them to lean to compensate for the extra weight. This leaning posture involves curving your spine in a way that can increase back, neck, and shoulder pain, and even increase the risk of herniated disks. Try limiting what you carry in your bag, and frequently switching the side you carry it on.
Many of our favorite fashion items can have negative effects on our bodies when used incorrectly. It is most important to prioritize comfort, because any pain you experience indicates a change needs to be made to pursue healthier style choices. Remember that healthy is beautiful, and what you wear should make you feel good and look good.