Getting ready for a fancy work event one evening, I realized I was going to have to wear my black-tie gown with either Uggs or sneakers. My closet, full of achingly beautiful sky-high shoes from seasons past, were all collecting dust. My feet were gnarled and chewed up by an industry-mandated stiletto habit over a two-decade career as a fashion editor, and the Ugg crisis was the last straw. The next morning I called Dr. Liza Egbogah, who has a reputation among the fashion set as a miracle worker for feet battered in the line of duty.
The osteopath, chiropractor and myofascial release expert is also favourite healer for Bay Street honchos, Hollywood stars and major-league sports heroes. She goes by the media-friendly handle of Dr. Liza.
Celebrity fashion foot fixer Dr. Liza Egbogah fixes the feet of celebs and models. (VINCE TALOTTA / TORONTO STAR)
Her office, called the[fix] (drlizaegbogah.com), is in Toronto’s financial district, though Dr. Liza also takes her mission on the road, appearing as a body and posture expert on TV (The Social, Cityline, eTalk as well as the morning show circuit), setting up treatment booths at events (Oscars, Golden Globes, ESPYs, TIFF, Junos) and was on the PanAm medical team. She is flown to film sets for private consults with boldfaced names.
The Calgary-raised dynamo started out studying pharmacology, but soon realized that natural, hands-on solutions were where her passion lay. She trained as a chiropractor and osteopath, but it is her myofascial release work that gains her the most attention.
Fascia is the connective tissue, opaque and made up mostly of collagen, which covers all muscles. Myofascial release is the process of unsticking the fascia by manual manipulation. Dr. Liza describes her process this way: “To stretch the fascia and muscle, we gently pull then move the legs, arms, spine and neck in a smooth motion at various angles to remove pressure between joints, release joint-lubricating synovial fluid, and improve flexibility of muscles.”
Her office has a swank, boutique feel, with posh coffees and candies, aromatherapy and a big screen flashing photos of Dr. Liza posing with her celebrity patients. Particularly eye-catching are hunky name drops such as Jamie Foxx, David Oyelowo, Jeremy Renner, Liev Shrieber and Emmanuel Chriqui. And those are just the names she can talk about.
Her signature all-day Dr. Liza pumps are sold online at DrLizaShoes.com, though she often customizes and stretches them for clients at her office. They have been worn by stars ranging from Kate Winslet to Edie Falco and Emma Thompson to Brandy. She calls the shoes, which she designed, “therapeutic fashion” the 3.75-inch heel is decked out with hidden foot-health promoting features — shock-absorption, deep heel cup, rocker soles and orthotic inserts.
Getting into a pair of these became my goal.
Dr. Liza herself is a dedicated follower of fashion and big-label designer gear. For this Star portrait shoot, she is busting a fabulous bold blue robe in traditional Nigerian style and fabric, made for her by her mother. She always wears her own heels, not just for selfies with her celebrity clientele but all day in the office and even to demonstrate posture-correction and belly-flattening moves on her morning show gigs.
She is known best as a posture preacher, but actually, says Dr. Liza, everything starts with the feet.
“Our feet are the base of support for the body so any dysfunction in our feet can lead to knee, hip, back, shoulder and even neck pain. Any disorder that stems from misalignment or dysfunction in the muscles, fascia and/or joint can by fixed or improved with the manual therapy techniques I use. Permanent structural changes like bunions, hammer toes and fractures may not be fixed by treatment but symptoms can definitely be improved.”
The foot fixation grew out of her own issues: she wasn’t going to let her own foot pain stop her from looking good. “I have been genetically cursed in the foot department and have suffered from bunions and plantar fasciitis on both feet. I also work in a profession where I am on my feet all day and run after a 3-year-old when I’m not working.”
All of which made me feel better, sharing the damage I had done to my own feet with a lifetime heel habit. It is worth noting that I have size 11 feet, and it is only recently that retailers began carrying anything beyond a size 10, especially in fancy designer labels. Foolishly, I tried for too many years to ugly-stepsister my way into those size 10s.
Dr. Liza seemed certain she could make a difference in reversing some of that damage. Since I had also been gathering dust for more than two years on a list to even get a consult with an orthopedic surgeon, I jumped on the opportunity to explore her non-surgical option.
It wasn’t cheap: a series of four weekly hour-long sessions for a combination orthopedic manipulation and myofascial release ($275 each or $1,000 for four), plus a pair of custom orthotics ($500). Dr. Lisa said that if I wear the orthotics and strictly adhere to the followup homework exercises (see sidebar), I would only need an occasional tune up.
Well, my foot pain, and resultant knee and hip and neck pain, basically disappeared. The treatment was a lot less expensive and less painful when compared to foot surgery and the major recovery time.
And I did indeed get into a pair of her pumps.
The sessions were painful in the moment, but the tough stuff was over fast, and the effects were both immediate and cumulative. Myofascial technique essentially feels like a form of deep tissue massage.
Dr. Liza has impossibly strong hands, which she used to find and release trigger points on my ankles, toes, knees and one so deep in the hip flexor that she warned, “This is going to be intense. Please don’t kick me!” It is, intense that is, but it also completely worked. Whatever she unstuck deep in my hip loosened up the works — right down to my toes.
Here is Dr. Liza’s explanation of treatment: “First I do a postural assessment to check alignment. Is one foot turning out more than another? Is one hip higher? Is there asymmetry between the sides? Once alignment is assessed I turn to palpation to feel where there may be underlying dysfunction in the muscles and fascia. As I assess the quality of the tissue I address any restrictions or adhesions that maybe be affecting the functionality of the muscles and fascia.”
Once the muscles and fascia have been restored to their optimal state she assesses how the joints are moving. “I use osteopathic mobilizations to improve the motion in restricted joints while kinesio-taping and/or stabilization exercises are used to stabilize joints that have excessive movement. In order to prevent the unravelling of the treatment, I usually recommend custom orthotics.”
By kinesio-taping, she means that she wraps your feet in medical tape, in a choice of fashion colours. You feel a bit like a ballet dancer with taped ankles, which isn’t an unpleasant fantasy.
And of course, she bandies about the “P” word, for pronation, scourge of the foot healer. Dr. Liza decodes this misunderstood concept: Pronation in itself is a normal part of gait, she says. “We are meant to pronate (roll in) for part of the walking cycle and supinate (roll out) for other parts. Problems occur when we over-pronate and that rolling in is excessive. Some people are genetically inclined to this dysfunction while for most it is a consequence of lifestyle. Too much time spent sitting can cause hip flexors to tighten up contributing to over-pronation.”
Being overweight can also cause pronation as the extra weight disrupts the normal motion of the ankle and foot. Footwear choices, inactivity and trauma can also contribute to over-pronation.
For Dr. Liza, good health starts from the ground up. And you still get to wear pretty shoes.
How to safe and stay happy in heels
Most high heels completely alter our natural mechanics, says Dr. Liza, forcing us into a position that puts significant pressure on the balls of our feet stresses the ligaments at the front of our knees and compresses the discs in the spine. These types of changes can lead to chronic pain conditions such as sciatica, disc degeneration and overall myofascial pain syndrome. Permanent disfigurement (bunions, hammer toes etc.) can also be seen in the feet with long-term high heel wear.
Tips to keep your heel-loving feet healthy
- Orthotics: Customized inserts, which practitioners such as Dr. Liza prescribe with 3-D gait technology, cost about $500. They help make the treatments last and correct your gait by keeping your feet from over-pronating. They aren’t designed to be worn with heels, but most closed-toed shoes will accommodate them. The support can train your muscles to stop overcompensating when you aren’t wearing them, says Dr. Liza.
- Exercises for heel-wearers
1. Dancer’s pose: Stand with your feet hip-width apart. Bend your left knee and grab your left ankle with your left hand. Raise your left arm towards the ceiling bringing leg up. Keep both knees facing forward and your right leg straight. Tilt your hips forward and let your left leg extend behind you — until you feel a stretch across your chest and hip. Look directly in front of you and keep your right raised arm parallel to the ground. Try to hold this pose for one minute. Repeat twice on each side.
What it does: Wearing high heels causes the hip flexors to tighten resulting in your pelvis tilting forward. This posture not only helps to stretch your hip flexors it also strengthens your core, glutes and legs simultaneously which are all responsible for stabilizing you while you walk in high heels, says Dr. Liza.
2. Standing Forward Fold: Begin standing with your hands on your hips and your feet hip-width apart. Exhale as you bend forward at the hips. Slide your hands so you are holding elbow with the opposite hand. Let the crown of your head hang down. Press your heels into the floor and lift your sit bones toward the ceiling. Bring your fingertips in line with your toes and press your palms on the floor. Let the balls of your feet absorb your weight, keeping your hips aligned over your ankles. Slowly breath in and out slightly lifting and lengthening your torso with each inhalation. Hold the pose for up to one minute. To release, place your hands on your hips, slightly bend your knees, maintain a flat back, inhale and return to standing. Repeat several times each day.
What it does: This is a great stretch for the hamstrings and calf muscles. Since the calf muscles and hamstrings shorten when you wear heels it is important to elongate and stretch them to prevent calf, foot and Achilles’ problems, says Dr. Liza.
3. Toppling tree: Stand with your feet hip-width apart. Looking straight ahead, extend your arms over your head and interlock your fingers, releasing your pointer fingers and pointing them towards the ceiling. Take one step in front of you and with your front knee slightly bent, slowly bend forward keeping your back leg in line with your body. Bend until your back is parallel to the floor. You will look like a ‘T’ from the side.
Hold this posture for 10 seconds. Repeat twice on each side.
What it does: By engaging your glutes and core at the same time, this pose helps to strengthen to muscles necessary to walk in high heels. Balancing while you are toppled forward also helps to strengthen the arches in your foot to provide additional support while you are wearing heels. This will help prevent foot problems such as neuromas and bunions, says Dr. Liza.
The original article from the Toronto Star can be found here