8 Fashion Mistakes That Could Wreck Your Health

From stratospheric heels to super-tight jeans, these trendy fashion choices could cost you more than a credit card bill

Sari Harrar Health February 6, 2015

Sure, you want to look good — who doesn’t? But the price you pay for staying in vogue may hit your health and not just your wallet.

Are the shoes, clothes and even undergarments in your closet and drawers out to get you? Smarten up your wardrobe by heeding this health-forward fashion advice.

1. Fashion faux pas: Stratospheric high heels

woman measuring high heels woman measuring high heels Photo: Vladimir Gjorgiev/Shutterstock

In a recent American Podiatric Medical Association survey of 1,000 adults, half the women said they wear high heels and 71 percent admitted their footwear hurt their feet. A daily high-heel habit can tighten the Achilles tendon that runs up the back of your ankle. You’re then at risk of an injury when you do an activity that requires flat shoes — Zumba class, say, or a walk in the park — and the tendon has to stretch. Over time, wearing high heels could even contribute to bunions or hammertoe according to Mindi Feilmeier, DPM, assistant professor in the College of Podiatric Medicine and Surgery at Des Moines University in Iowa.

Fashion fix: Alternate high heels with lower heels or supportive flats (forget those ballet flats with nothing to them). And learn to love two-inch heels. Three-inch and higher heels shift weight forward, putting painful pressure on the ball of the foot and toes, warns Matthew G. Garoufalis, DPM, past president of APMA in a press release. 

Related: Footwear Do's and Don'ts if You Have Diabetes

2. Fashion faux pas: Pinchy shoes

trying on shoes trying on shoes Photo: Africa Studio/Shutterstock

Think your shoe size hasn’t changed since senior prom? Aging, weight gain and pregnancy can all conspire to flatten and lengthen your feet, adding up to a half-size increase per decade, according to one shoe manufacturer. In one New York University foot-size study, one in three people wore shoes that were at least a half-size wrong. Too-tight shoes can encourage the formation of bunions over time. Not convinced you need new shoes? If you frequently get corns, calluses or ingrown toenails, these may be signs your current shoes aren’t fitting the bill, according to Michael J. Trepal, DPM, vice president for academic affairs at New York College of Podiatric Medicine in New York.

Fashion fix: Have your feet measured the next time you buy shoes. If you’re like most people, one foot will be slightly bigger than the other: Your new kicks should fit the larger foot. Style matters, too. Shoes with a roomy toe box (the front part of the shoe) are less likely to put the squeeze on toes. 

3. Fashion faux pas: Pants you have to wedge into

woman in tight jeans woman in tight jeans Photo: kryzhov/Shutterstock

We know you love skinny jeans and even skinnier “jeggings.” But too-tight pants are more than just an embarrassing muffin top risk. The squeezing can put pressure on your abdomen that can cause or worsen heartburn. It’s not just a woman thing either. In a 2012 British survey sponsored by a maker of incontinence products, one in ten guys confessed that their tight pants were uncomfortable, and one in five said they even made their testicles hurt. Docs warn that rock-star-tight trousers could even increase risk for an incredibly painful condition called testicular torsion.

Fashion fix: If heartburn tends to hit when you’re wearing tight pants, it’s a sign to size up. And guys, make sure you’ve got enough room in the crotch for comfort. Try pleated pants or a larger size. 

Related: Men: The Secret to Losing That Belly 

4. Fashion faux pas: Nylon underwear, tights and body shapers

cotton underwear cotton underwear Photo: Ruslan Kudrin/Shutterstock

Underwear and other intimates made with synthetic fabric at the crotch trap moisture close to skin, creating the perfect environment for a yeast infection.

Fashion fix: Buy undergarments made from natural fibers such a cotton, or at least ones with an all-cotton crotch, for better ventilation, health experts suggest. And save the body shapers for special occasions. 

5. Fashion faux pas: Nickel jewelry for your body piercing

woman in lots of jewelry woman in lots of jewelry Photo: NeonShot/Shutterstock

Nickel is the metal most likely to provoke an allergic reaction. It’s also plentiful in earrings, bracelets, necklaces, watches and doo-dads for pierced noses, eyebrows and belly buttons. Thanks to the body piercing trend, as many as one in three women and one in seven men are affected by nickel allergies, according to the North American Contact Dermatitis Group.

Fashion fix:  Allergic reactions to nickel develop with prolonged, repeated exposure. Cut your risk by wearing nickel-free jewelry. Safer metals include surgical-grade stainless steel, yellow gold (white may have nickel in it), sterling silver, copper, platinum and titanium. 

6. Fashion faux pas: Wearing wool around pets or even their owners

man in wool sweater man in wool sweater Photo: file404/Shutterstock

That retro wool cardigan or sleek merino turtleneck looks as good as it feels. It’s also a magnet for pet dander. Wearing wool sweaters boosted exposure to cat dander up to elevenfold in a University of Sydney study. Study volunteers who didn’t own pets picked up sneeze-provoking particles from work colleagues who owned cats.

Fashion fix: Share an office or other tight space with a pet owner? If you’re allergic to dogs, cats or even dust mites, wear easy-to-wash fabrics to work. Save wool for your days off. If you’re courting someone with cats, watch what you wear when you get dressed for your dates.

Related: Ban These 7 Allergens From Your Home

7. Fashion faux pas: Wearing flip-flops all the time

wearing flip flops wearing flip flops Photo: mamezito/Shutterstock

They’re easy, show off your pedicure and come in a zillion cute styles. But if you wear them too often, flip-flops can spell trouble for your tootsies and other body parts, too. In a 2008 Auburn University study, flip-flop wearers tended to alter their gait, perhaps to keep the shoes on their feet. This caused foot pain, leg pain, even hip and backaches. Flip-flops also offer little or no support.

Fashion fix: Save flip-flops for the beach, lazy summer days and the shower at your gym (one place they can save your health). Wear something more supportive when you know you’ll have to do some walking.

8. Fashion faux pas: Getting stuck in a grunge groove

grunge look grunge look Photo: Still AB/Shutterstock

There’s nothing wrong with the grunge look if that’s your style — but think twice about how you dress at work or school. A study from Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management found that what you wear can have a strong impact on your performance. The study gave people tasks that required focus and attention. Participants were asked to wear white lab coats. Some were told the coats were doctors’ coats, some were told they were house painters’ jackets. The folks who believed they were dressed in doctors’ duds made half as many mistakes on the test as the ones who thought they were wearing painters’ jackets.

Fashion fix: When you want to do your best, dress for success. 

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