UPDATED: Mar 26, 2020
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If you think about it, it makes sense that high heels might not be so ideal for you. Your body lets you know just how it feels about them after a long day spent inches above the ground. But many of us ignore our body’s cry out for help in the name of fashion. Because heels are just so darn cute. Well, it turns out it’s more than just sore feet and legs we have to worry about. Your high heels may be causing permanent body damage.
A high heel shoe puts your foot in a plantarflexed (foot pointed downward) position, placing an increased amount of pressure on your forefoot. High heels may make your legs look longer but as the heel height increases so does the pressure on the forefoot. The increased pressure is what causes your foot to ache at the end of the day. It can also cause foot deformities such as hammer toes, bunions, and neuromas. The plantarflexion position also causes the foot to turn to the outside which changes the line of pull of the Achilles tendon and is the cause of Haglund’s deformity or more commonly called the pump bump.
The increased pressure on the front of your foot from heels also causes you to adjust the rest of your body to maintain your balance. The lower part of your body leans forward your upper body compensates by leaning back to keep you balanced. This changes the normal s-curve shape of the back which normally acts as a shock absorber and reduces stress on the vertebrae. Wearing high heels causes the lower spine to flatten and the mid spine to move in backward. In other words, heels mess up your entire alignment, which leads to muscle overuse and back pain.
Walking in high heel shoes is like walking on a balance beam. It takes a lot of balance, and there is not any support in a high heel shoe to catch you if you fall. High heel shoes cause your foot and ankle to move into an outward position which puts you at risk for losing your balance and spraining your ankles. High heels limit the motion and power of the ankle joint and shorten the calf muscles and Achilles tendon. This can increase the pull of the Achilles tendon where it attaches to the back of your heel bone and may cause a condition called insertional Achilles tendonitis.
Walking in the plantarflexed position also makes it difficult to push off the ground with as much force as you would without heels. This forces your hip flexor muscles in your legs to work harder because now they are pulling rather than pushing your body forward. If your hip flexor muscles are chronically overused, the muscles can shorten, and a contracture can occur. Your knees are also greatly affected as they remain flexed and forward when in heels which make your knees work harder and your shin turn inward. It’s no coincidence that knee osteoarthritis is twice as common in women.
Sure heels look great and are an excellent fashion accessory. But at what cost? High heels can permanently change the way you walk and put you at greater risk of strain injuries. Take care of your body, and it will take care of you. Remove the heels and keep those joints, tendons, and muscles working well after you’ve outlived your term life insurance policy.