The perfect, pointy pair of 4-inch heels can make any outfit, but with this style comes much suffering. High heels have the stigma of being bad for health and comfort, but this barely stops women from wearing them occasionally, and often, daily. Women often make sacrifices for foot fashion, but at what price? Studies have shown that these towering shoes can be costly in more ways than one, taking their toll on your spine, hips, knees, ankles and feet, while altering your posture and gait. We’ve done our research, to help educate and convince women, to take it down a notch, for your own good!
The Real Harm in High Heels
Your killer heels are killing much more than you think. One in 10 women wear high heels at least three days a week, and a third have fallen while wearing them. Statistics show that high heels are one of the biggest factors leading to foot problems in women, with up to a third suffering permanent problems as a result of prolonged wear. My own mom happens to be an example!
High Heels: The Higher the Better?
Those perfect pumps can create the perfect storm for permanent health problems. If you frequently wear high heels, you are setting yourself up for long-term issues. Extended wear of high heels and continually bending your toes into an unnatural position can cause a range of ailments, from ingrown toenails to irreversible damage to leg tendons. Additionally, cramming your toes into a narrow toe box can cause nerve damage and bunions. High heels have also been linked to overworked or injured leg muscles, osteoarthritis of the knee, plantar fasciitis, metatarsalgia, and lower back pain.
When you wear high heel shoes with a heel two inches or higher, your foot slides forward in your shoe, forcing the toes into the unnatural shape of the shoe, and redistributing your weight incorrectly. The increased weight on your toes causes your body to tilt forward, and to compensate; you lean backwards and over arch your back, creating a posture that can strain your knees, hips, and lower back. The change to the position of your spine, puts pressure on nerves in the back and can cause sciatica, a condition where nerves become trapped, triggering pain and numbness as far down as the feet.
High Heels and Chronic Pain
Over time, wearing high heels can shorten the muscles in your calves and in your back, leading to pain and muscle spasms. Any time you wear shoes that restrict the natural shape of your foot, you’re at risk for experiencing pain. Many women who wear high heels often suffer a shortening of the Achilles tendon; because once the heel is pointed upwards, it tightens up. Stretching it again or switching to flats can be very painful; it can even lead to plantar fasciitis. This tendon is designed to be flexible, so the foot can lie flat or point. With repetitive wear, you can develop unhealthy patterns that can persist even when you’re not wearing high heels.
Do I Have to Give Up My Heels?
No, but to avoid the problems that develop over time, the following is recommended:
- Choose sensible shoes with low heels, two inches or less – and a wide heel base; a slightly thicker heel will spread the load more evenly. Narrow, stiletto-type heels provide little support, while three inch or higher heels, may shorten the Achilles tendon.
- Wear soft insoles to reduce the impact on your knees.
- Make sure your shoes are the right size, so the foot doesn’t slide forward, putting even more pressure on the toes. Ensure it has a wide enough toe box to allow you to wiggle your toes.
- Wear heels on days that require limited walking or standing.
- Alternate your shoe choice throughout the day, or from one day to the next. Don’t wear your high heels all day; instead, wear more comfortable shoes, such as athletic or walking shoes for commuting to and from work. Wearing shoes that allow your body to move naturally during walking will allow your feet, legs, hips and back to stretch.
- Take time every day to stretch your calf muscles and feet.
The Final Word on Foot Health
Don’t let your sense of style cripple your ability to stand or step pain-free. Your feet are, quite literally, your base of support. If your feet aren’t happy, nothing above them will be. Take a closer look at your shoe selection and take small steps now to prevent big foot problems later.
While wearing high-heeled shoes appears to strengthen ankle muscles at first, prolonged use eventually causes an imbalance, which is a crucial predictor of ankle injury.
Scale Back the Height
Statistically, your risk for injury increases along with the number of inches in your heel, anything over 2 inches can cause trouble. We see the evidence daily at the Clinic, unfortunately, some choose to remain in denial.
Your feet mirror your general health . . . cherish them!