High heels have been a fashion staple for hundreds of years, but as time goes on, more and more questions are being asked about what effect they have on your health. Any woman at the end of a long night can tell you how much pain high heels can cause feet, but the damage extends far beyond that. In this blog, we’re going to look at how wearing high heels can have negative effects on your feet, legs, back, and overall posture.
Obviously, our feet are designed to be placed flat on the ground. Back in the days before shoes, the varying firmness and textures of the ground would be enough to keep our feet in the right shape, but these days, improper footwear can cause the shape of our feet to change gradually over time. With high heels, it is as though we are walking uphill, which places extra pressure on the balls of the feet. This can lead to immediate pain, as well as long-term pain known as metatarsalgia, where the balls of the feet become inflamed and painful. Depending on the type of toe the shoes have, they can also force the toes into uncomfortable positions, which can lead to problems like bunions or hammertoe.
Wearing high-heels also causes your centre of gravity to change, meaning your whole body has to lean forward to compensate. This can cause many problems, such as the shortening of your calf muscles, and shin splints. Shin splints are the inflammation of the front of the tibia, which can be brought on by the extra pressure and position changes that come with wearing high heels. You can tell if your pain is a shin splint, and not something similar like a stress fracture, by examining the pain. Shin splints won’t have an epicentre of pain, but will be a general pain running throughout the legs below the knees. They are at their most painful when you lift your leg and ‘flex’ your foot.
The excess pressure and forward lean can also cause problems in the knees. Normally when we walk, we don’t bend our knees every time our feet hit the ground. A study conducted in Stanford in 2014 found that the higher the heel, the more often the knee bends. This can lead to short-term problems like pain and inflammation, but heels above 3.5 inches can actually lead to premature aging and osteoarthritis as well.
As mentioned above, because high-heels change your centre of gravity and cause you to lean forward, this can cause your calf muscles to shorten. The same is true for the muscles in the lower back, which can be the cause of muscle spasms and back pain. The fact that our hips & spine are no longer in alignment, and that our walking patterns have changed, can also lead to back pain.
It’s clear to see that the problems high-heels can cause go well beyond our feet. Feet are like the foundation of a building, and the slightest change can affect everything built on top of it. But that doesn’t mean you have to avoid high-heels at all costs. Like so many things in life, they are fine in moderation. The problems arise when people frequently wear heels above 3.5 inches, so choose your shoes wisely, wear them sparingly, and you should be able to avoid most of the problems on this list.