High-heeled shoes. Sigh. This is one of those topics no woman wants to discuss. “Don’t take my heels away from me!” I know, I know . . . WAIT! Don’t stop reading yet, please, just take a second to look at this picture.
If that makes you stop for a second, please read on to learn how wearing heels on a daily basis could be doing irreparable damage – not only to the bones and muscles of your feet and legs – but also to your posture, your gait, your back and your hips.
Heels give us the impression that our feet look more dainty, our legs look longer and our glutes look more shapely. I get it, I really do. But at what cost? The information below is what caused me to reevaluate and add some really cute ballet flats to my shoe collection. My body has never been happier.
Effect on Feet, Ankles, and Knees:
The most obvious repercussion of wearing heels is the compression of the bones in the feet. Increased pressure is caused by the unnatural downward angle of the foot and the additional weight that your foot bones have to bear (weight they were not designed to bear!). This increased pressure can lead to pain and issues such as bunions, hammer toes and neuromas. The higher the heel, the worse the pressure! If you’re not willing to give up heels completely, consider the difference that lower height can make. Wearing a 3 1/4 inch heel increases the pressure on the bottom of the forefoot by 76%!
The ankles are also at risk, because of the way in which heels limit the motion of the ankle joint. Regularly wearing heels can cause a shortening of the Achilles tendon, which in turn can lead to tendinitis of the Achilles. And your knees aren’t immune either. While in heels, your knee stays bent, and your tibia (shin) turns inward. This puts unnatural pressure on the inside of the knee, which is where many women start to experience osteoarthritis. In fact, knee osteoarthritis is twice as common in women as in men! Coincidence?
Effect on back, hips, and posture
Back pain is one of the most common physical complaints in our society, and those heels are not helping. Your spine has a natural curve in the lower back. When you wear heels, your upper body naturally leans forward slightly in order to keep you balanced. This lean pulls the natural curve of the lower back too straight, which in turn pulls the rest of the spine out of alignment and can lead to back pain. Your hip flexors can also start to experience pain for similar reasons. Because of the unnatural angle of your feet in heels, your leg muscles aren’t able to exert the normal amount of force in moving you forwards as you walk. Accordingly, your hip flexors have to step in and do more work. Over time, overused hip flexors start to shorten/contract, which can also lead to flattening of the lower spine = back pain. Finally, the negative effect that heels can have on your posture and gait should be clear by now. The above-mentioned need for your body to lean forward in order to stay balanced in heels can cause long-term problems with the alignment of your spine. It all boils down to the fact that the position your body is in while you wear heels is not the natural position your body was meant to be in.
Please keep these things in mind when you’re choosing your shoes for the day! No, it’s not realistic to expect women to give up their heels completely. But consider supplementing your sky-high stilettos with some lower heels and some great ballet flats. Rotate them around so you’re not subjecting your body to heels every day. Trust me, your body will thank you!