Take a load of your feet Pete You better watch out what you eat Better take care of your life 'Cause nobody else will -- The Beach Boys

Our feet are frequently neglected. We seem to forget that those two parts are what supports the entire weight of our bodies and make mobility possible. Their job is challenging enough _ and then some of us slip into high heels.

High heels cause any number of problems with our legs, ankles, backs and necks because they keep your foot in a plantarflexed position, according to Terence Vanderheiden, a doctor of podiatric medicine, in a column at about.com. The calf muscles shorten, as does your Achilles' tendon, which knocks your body's alignment off kilter.

"If your car tires are out of alignment, you can only drive so many miles before you are at risk of blowing a tire," Vanderheiden writes. "The same is true for your body. Things need to be in alignment."

High heels also compromise your balance, leading to twisted ankles and scraped knees. Despite all of the hazards of this form of footwear, women still wear high heels because they signify power and status. No one crams their toes into a Manolo because they are comfortable.

Elizabeth Semmelhack, the senior curator for Toronto's Bata Shoe Museum told NPR that no matter how many scientific studies show how unhealthy high heels are, fashion will always win out.

"The high heel has gotten as far as its gotten, because it is such a highly impractical form of footwear," Semmelhack said. "Its value to our society has nothing to do with its use as a shoe."

Rebecca Porter-O'Donnell of Oneonta understands this down to the tips of her cramped toes. She started wearing high heels during her second year of college and has worn them nearly every day since then.

"They made me taller," she said. "All of my pants were too long. I feel I have better self-confidence when I'm wearing high heels. Strangely enough, when my feet are screaming at me, I feel better."

About 12 years ago, Porter-O'Donnell's feet started to hurt, she said. She developed bunions, deep calluses and stress fractures. Plus, "not only do I wear high heels, I also wear pointy-toed heels; my toes cram into that pointyness and it sheers my toenails off from the cuticle forward. So on my ring toes, I don't have any toenail."

Two months ago, Porter-O'Donnell quit her high-heel-habit cold turkey. The change is still difficult.

"I miss them terribly," she said. "I really do. I'm having the worst time transitioning. I just feel short and dumpy. I feel like, without them, I'm not taken seriously."

While not wearing heels because they are destroying your feet is the more intuitive choice to make, Porter-O'Donnell still finds it challenging to stop.

"It's a very strange. It's all psychological, the way I feel in them, the way I think I'm perceived in them. But that's really why I wore them. Obviously I didn't wear them for comfort's sake. Now the amount of money I used to spend on heels, I'm spending on having my pants hemmed," she said.

Women's attitudes about high heels might be changing, however. Porter- O'Donnell has two daughters younger than 10. She knows what she'd tell them if they started to wear heels every day.

"I would say: please don't. I really wouldn't recommend it. Although I can understand why they'd want to," she said.

"I would say to them, 'You know girls, you might grow another inch but you'll never grown another foot. Take care of the ones you've got.'"

There are signs that younger women _ even those who are in the fashion industry _ are also starting to heed the Beach Boys' advice. Three models, Abbey Lee Kershaw, Natasha Poly and Sasha Pivovarova, refused to walk in Alexander McQueens Spring 2010 show because they thought the 10-inch stilettos were too dangerous for them to wear.

While the models lost that booking, they may have saved their feet for another day.

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