It feels perfectly normal to lug around a tote containing a laptop and books as long as you're wearing comfortable flats, right? But are those flats really good for your feet, and is the soreness you feel once you take off that tote bag sending you a message?
Clothing — whether stylish, functional, or stylishly functional — has helped humans express themselves and get things done since we were living in caves. As much as we love them, though, some of our favorite clothes and accessories may not be worth the harm they're doing to our bodies. Here are seven wardrobe staples that may be harming your health:
backpacks and mega-totes
Remember when women carried little handbags just big enough for lipstick, gloves and a handkerchief? Neither do we. Thanks to the popularity of oversized totes and the backpacks that have made a luxury comeback in recent seasons, we somehow went from carrying small essentials to carrying a laptops, an extra sweater, and even our pets in our shoulder bags. According to the New York Times, doctors are seeing a rise in stiff necks and sore shoulders as a result. “A lot of women even get bad headaches,” Karen Erickson, a chiropractor and spokeswoman for the American Chiropractic Association, told the Times.
Bras That Don't Fit
Image: Ocskay Bence/Fotolia
The next time you put on a bra, ask yourself how well it really fits. Various studies show that between 70 and 80 percent of women are wearing the wrong bra size, causing health problems beyond simple discomfort. Wearing a bra with a tight underband can increase the risk of back pain because it constricts the back. If you find yourself shifting the alignment of your body to deal with this discomfort, you might be hurting your posture. Breathing problems and even irritable bowel syndrome have been linked to a tight bra’s pressure on your muscles and rib cage.
Wearing heels… a lot
This one probably doesn't surprise you. High heels are the major cause of foot problems in women. Among the heel-wearing, one third experience permanent problems due to prolonged wear. Ingrown toenails, nerve damage, bunions, and even osteoarthritis of the leg are among a laundry list of problems. The solution, of course, is what every stiletto-lover doesn't want to hear: wear heels less often, and choose styles with a platform and wider heel to take the pressure off the balls of your feet.
Wearing the wrong flats… a lot
They may be a lot more comfy than heels for walking around, but flats can also create problems. The thin, flat insoles provide little to no arch support, which can contribute to fallen arches, tired and aching feet after working out, and change your gait. A 2013 study published in Rheumatology showed a link between lower back pain and women walking with flat feet. According to lead author Marian Hannan, a senior scientist at Hebrew SeniorLife's Institute for Aging Research at the Hebrew Life Center, the body could be using muscles around your body to make up for flat feet, adding pressure to your back. If you can't live without your flats, at least wear gel insoles to give yourself a modicum of added support.
Too-snug jeans and pants are uncomfortable and unflattering, yes, but those aren't their biggest problems. In an interview with CBS, Dr. Nicholas Morrissey, vascular surgeon with NewYork-Presbytarian Hospital of Columbia University Medical Center, said that tight pants can lead to meralgia paresthetica, a numb feeling that goes down one’s thigh. If it happens often enough, it can cause permanent damage on your nerves. Wearing tight pants can also aggravate problems for those with esophagitis, heartburn or chronic heartburn because of the pressure they put on the abdomen. So when you find the perfect jeans, make sure you get them in a size that gives your body room to function.
Thongs alone aren’t necessarily bad for you, but according to a Huffington Post interview with Dr. Shieva Ghofrany, an OB/GYN at Stamford Hospital in Conn., if you experience urinal or vaginal infection, wearing a thong will not help the problem. The lack of fabric exposes the vulva to increased moisture and bacteria, encouraging it to move into your tracts.