It’s probably all become routine by now. Each weekday, we pick up that packed shoulder bag and head out for a long day of classes. At night, we slip on a pair of high heels and skinny jeans and set out for a party or some barhopping. We sit, we stand, we walk, we dance: that bag is on our shoulder, those shoes are on our feet, and those jeans are tugging at our hips, all taking a toll on our health.
“Our body memorizes these things,” says Colleen Fay, licensed massage therapist, in reference to the constant strains we put on our bodies when we choose certain styles. “It’s harder to bring [our bodies] back to the way they should be” after being painfully fashionable. While most of these ailments can be reversed by physical therapy, chiropractic or massage, taking preventative measures before fashion turns against you is the best approach.
A CLASSic Problem: When Good Book Bags Go Bad
“I tend to carry big bags and over-pack, even during the day just running errands, so I often have a sore back afterward,” says Chrissy Callahan, HC’s beauty blogger. “I went for a day trip to NYC this summer and I packed way too much and was stuck running around all day with an over-stuffed bag and an aching back.”
Fay explains that when you have a heavy strain on only one side of the body, you’re affecting a significant number of muscles. “The opposing hip is displaced laterally,” she says. Even with a backpack, you tend to move forward in an attempt to keep the balance, which shortens your muscles over time, leading to neck, hip, and shoulder issues.
Try this: Stand straight with your arms at your sides. Have a friend take your bag and place it on one shoulder. Watch as your body shifts to compensate for the new weight. “You’ll see the opposite shoulder go up and the hip go to the side,” says Fay. “Imagine how many hours you’ll carry that bag in a day. By the time you get home, something will be sore.”
Tips for that Heavy Tote:
Split up the weight. Divide books between a backpack and a shoulder bag. Choose a style that goes across your chest, like this floral messenger from Fossil, which disperses the weight more evenly. But if toting around a hefty bag is absolutely necessary, make sure you only keep it on your shoulder for a limited amount of time. Set it down while waiting in line or stopping to talk to friends.
Looking Stylish is in My Jeans: The Skinny on Too-Tight Denim
Wearing clothes that are too tight is probably the offense of which college women are least aware. In fact, it’s typically fine in moderation. But if you take off those pants at the end of the night and see an indent or red marks where your jeans or underwear were (and let’s face it, who doesn’t?), you’re looking at a circulation problem.
“There’s not as much trouble if you’re standing up,” says Fay. “Once you sit, the circulation gets cut off. I’ve seen people who sit all day in tight jeans whose legs actually swell.” But circulation isn’t the only issue, says Fay. The tighter the jeans, the more susceptible you are to yeast infections, since snug clothes create more warmth on your skin and, according to the Monistat homepage, “ can create the kind of warm, moist environment that encourages yeast growth.”
A Healthy Compromise
Many college girls’ wardrobes are just not complete without one or two pairs of skinny jeans, so if ditching that snug denim isn’t an option, try alternating styles throughout the week, or saving your skinniest pair for the weekends. If you do wear a pair to class, switch to a cozy pair of sweats once you’re back home for the day. Not ready to make that big of a compromise? Then jeggings or boyfriend jeans (or both!) are your new best friend. These breathable blues rank much higher on the circulation scale.
Taking Time to Heel: Why Our Feet Have It Oh-So-Bad
They squish our toes, they rub our heels, they strain our ankles. High heels do a number on even the toughest of feet, and not just while we’re wearing them.
“I can’t count the number of times I’ve gone out at night feeling chic in a cute pair of heels, only to limp home a few hours later on aching, blister-covered feet, says HC writer Laura Hoxworth. “If I’m lucky, I won’t have twisted my ankle, but that happens sometimes too.”
Fay sees a lot of deep calf issues and Achilles tendon tears from excessive heel-wearing. “We expect the muscles in our legs to extend back to a normal position, but they don’t without help,” she says.
Even after taking these precautions, there’s still the risk of angle and posture problems. The key word with all of these fashion issues is “compensation”. Our bodies aren’t meant for these types of strains. When one area is strained, another area tries to make up for the strain, throwing everything out of alignment. And that’s when things start to get painful.
Where Height Meets Health:
“Don’t wear heels without giving the muscles in your legs a break,” says Fay. Before and after you strap on those stilettos, it’s crucial to stretch the calf muscles, rotate your ankle, and stretch your toes to decrease the risk of serious strains. While the lowest possible pair is always better, strengthening leg muscles through exercise could better prepare those calves for a night on the town. And if your job or internship requires a pair of these height-enhancing health-wreckers, bring a pair of flats for the commute.
Finding the Balance: Why We’d Never Ask You to Give Up These Fashion Sacrifices
Here at HC, we’re all about feeling awesome and looking awesome, so we understand the need to pull on a pair of skinny jeans and slip into a pair of heels, all while carrying a super-stylish bag on your shoulder. A few routine tweaks may be all it takes to keep the style and eliminate the pain. We’ve all heard the phrase, “everything in moderation,” and fashion is no exception.
And for those ladies who think it’s unfair that guys don’t have to deal with these fashion issues, Fay has some words of reassurance. Baggy jeans and oversized, clunky shoes don’t exactly make for the most body-friendly walking methods. Soon, she says, “They’ll have their own problems.”
Colleen Fay, Licensed Massage Therapist
Chrissy Callahan, Brandeis University student and HC Beauty Blogger
Laura Hoxworth, UNC-Chapel Hill student and HC Contributing Writer