The Stiletto Whisperer

This fall season has been dedicated to where we start a delicious meal at a restaurant.  To the dark wooden bar that is always so inviting. To those bartenders that typically start us off when we first arrive onsite; those friendly faces that are dedicated to serving and pleasing us and helping to set us off on a sometimes bacchanalian event.

Ladies of the night are dressed to impress. That means sexy, stylish but not always functional shoes to entice the men as they imbibe at the bar. But those girls are usually working the front of the house. Well, when you spend long hours behind the bar, you might be in flat and more comfortable shoes. Shoes your body doesn’t have to work as hard to balance in. But when you change into those fabulous heels to step up your game at the end of service, your body might not be accustomed to the balance change.

Stiletto Whisperer

Last June, Pix11 news decided to showcase women and their heels. Who knows better the injuries that women can sustain behind a bar than our own Karen Fu, bartender extraordinaire with a background at PDT, Prime Meats, Momofuku Ssam Bar and most recently, at The Nomad in New York City. Working in the back of the bar means comfortable, water resistant and slip resistant shoes that are able to keep you smiling and cheerful as you spend over 10 hours on your feet: prepping, cleaning, and serving those delicious cocktails. But it’s not just the tight quarters you have to watch out for. Those bar mats are big, heavy, wet and sometimes not level. Ms. Fu knows exactly how uneven they can be when you encounter one and go down in a fraction of a second.

Ankle joints are inherently unstable as the outside of the ankle has a lot of movement and not a lot of support.  The opposite is true on the inside of the ankle. By nature of this construction, the ankle joint then becomes inherently unstable with the imbalance between the two sides. For women who decide to strap on heels, that means your ankle will work harder to keep you upright. The entire leg in fact for balance and body awareness comes from the core, or the lumbo pelvic region.

NYSRA March 2019 728×90

Balance and strength come from the trunk. That means the deep abdominals, low back and butt; those areas need to be strong with good endurance. These muscles help support the hip, knee and ankle joint. Exercises that focus on the entire leg as well as a specific joint mean better reflexes and strength to maintain a good upright position and avoid falls. So, when Ms. Fu’s foot caught the edge of a mat, the pull on her ankle was too great for her to maintain an upright position and she ended up pulling the outside of her ankle, causing a lateral ankle sprain. Now Ms. Fu has a history of ankle sprains so that in addition to the circumstances created a situation where the chance of her going down was even greater.

For those in the service industry, it is important to keep the body strong and supple in order to avoid injuries as well as to be fashionable and functional. Ms. Fu demonstrates some of the most important exercises: ankle eversion, side leg raises, hip hikes, lateral lunges and reverse lunges.

I was called the ‘Stiletto Whisperer’ as Pix11 and I worked with Ms. Fu to teach her how to walk again in high heels. Now Ms. Fu is back behind the bar, serving us cocktails with a huge smile on her face with her legs strong, supportive and shapely for when she changes out of her service gear and heads out for the night.

To see more, go to: Pix11: Exercises for Getting into Stiletto Shape, June 18, 2014. To learn more about ActiveCare Physical Therapy, please visit or call 212.777.4374.

Dr. Karena Wu
Dr. Karena Wu is owner and Clinical Director of ActiveCare Physical Therapy. She has been practicing physical therapy for 16 years in New York City after she graduated from the Program In Physical Therapy at Columbia University. She received her clinical doctorate in physical therapy from Temple University. She has advanced training in manual therapies, specifically in the Maitland Australian Approach and Myofascial Release. Karena is a Certified Orthopedic Manual Therapist, Strength and Conditioning Specialist, Kinesiology Tape Practitioner and Pilates Instructor. She is also LSVT BIG, FMS and SFMA Level 1 Certified. Karena is a dedicated practitioner who takes a holistic approach to her practice. She actively networks with a team of physicians, chiropractors, acupuncturists and massage therapists. Her patient population consists of professional athletes, dancers, celebrity chefs, TV media stars, high end business professionals, and NYPD/FDNY. Karena is used as a healthcare expert on CBS, NBC, NY1, PIX11, Verizon Fios, Fox News and Dr. Oz. She is the Director of Education for SpiderTech Kinesiology Tape and is on the Medical Board of the Association of Volleyball Professionals. Visit her website at