MANHATTAN — Fitness instructor Yamuna Zake’s biggest pet peeve is watching women teeter and fall as they clumsily stumble about city streets in their six to eight-inch stiletto heels.
Deeming the women the problem, rather than the heels, she created a 15-minute foot-stretching and strengthening class at her studio in the West Village. “Walk Sexy and Pain Free” aims to teach women how to refine their strut in super high heels.
"For half of them, it's embarrassing to watch these young girls walk around, falling all over the place," Zake said. "I thought that someone needs to teach these girls to walk in stilettos and be beautiful and graceful."
Starting Monday, the class at Yamuna Studio is one of several being offered for free during “Wellness Week,” when over 100 of Manhattan’s most popular gyms, spas and restaurants heat up with deals that promise to make New Yorkers not just healthier, but also sexier.
Hot chocolate body massages, slim-down body boot camps and Zake’s stiletto foot-stretching classes are some of the regimes on offer during the annual event as Manhattan women prepare for summer.
In addition to teaching a sexier strut, the “Walk Sexy and Pain Free’ class also advertises the prevention of plantar fasciatus, hammertoes, collapsed arches and other pesky foot problems associated with or aggravated by excessive heel wear.
Normally Zake charges $10 to teach students how to stretch their toes, massage the balls of their feet and rise up and down on their toes to stretch and strengthen.
Attendants bring their stilettos for a "red carpet" walk at the end of class, where Zake critiques her students, encouraging them to stand up straighter, align their feet with their knees and keep their chests high.
"You can't think that you're just gonna stick your feet in these eight inch things and not have your feet get deformed and hurt," Zake says. "This class helps prevent that."
Yamuna studio isn't the only place focusing on the sex appeal of Wellness Week. An organic warm cocoa massage and hot chocolate manicure and pedicure session at TriBeca Beauty Spa also promises to make women feel and look more "divine," just in time to shimmy into short skirts and shoulder-revealing tops.
The $120 package, offered at a 48 percent discount of its whopping $230 price tag, promises to refine skin with exfoliates and antioxidants, leaving women with a hot glow.
"Clients will leave feeling refreshed and ready to get back into the concrete jungle," the spa's site promises.
Other spas around the city are offering similiar deals, such as a "boot camp" exercise class that promises to burn through fat-causing calories in only 16 days.
But some doctors said that, no matter how sexy, not all Wellness Week fitness classes have health benefits for women.
For some women, running around in high heels in particular can be detrimental to muscles and tendons in the feet and ankles, said Dr. Joseph Larsen, who works at Midtown Podiatry. Larsen said that women who have problems with their feet should not take classes that encourages them to walk in stilettos.
"Every woman is different, but I often see swelling in the back of the heel where the tendon attaches," Larsen said. ""You can develop inflamed nerves, and I see it more when women are wearing higher heels."
Eric Munoz, a therapist at New York Sports Medicine and Physical Therapy, agreed.
"It sounds like a sexy class, but you run the risk of injury wearing the shoes," he said.
Some of the problems that heels can cause include bunions, blisters and cramped muscles, but that doesn't stop women from trying to wear them. Munoz says he's not surprised that the spa offers a wellness class focused on minimizing injury while wearing heels.
"It's hard to say if the heels are the cause of all of their injuries, but many women say that their main goal is to be able to wear heels again," he said about the physical therapy office where he works.
Munoz says the chocolate massage also sounds enticing but, while there's nothing detrimental about it, there's no medical evidence that its any more beneficial than a regular massage, which is often used by physical therapists to increase blood flow and decrease tension.
"I don't know any benefits of massages with chocolate," Munoz laughed. "I don't think they've found any research that shows that chocolate increases the effects of massage."
While it's fun to splurge on fancy products and jam-packed boot camp fitness classes, the best methods of staying healthy may not cost a dime.
Generally speaking, Munoz's best tips for overall wellness include good nutrition, hydration, paying attention to posture and getting some good old-fashioned sleep.
"A lot of injuries we see here are just due to exhaustion," Munoz said. "New Yorkers don't sleep enough."