Learning what heels do to the body can provide you the knowledge for the repercussions and what to do to combat it, while still feeling sexy
Those perfect pumps create the perfect storm for looking great and health problems. Regular wearing of high heels can lead to shortened calf muscles, a stiffer Achilles tendon, curvature of the lower back, ulcers, hammertoes, bunions, and back pain.
Why do women wear high heels?
– Because men did.
Men were technically the first sex to wear shoes with heels; it was a signal of status for the European aristocracy of the 1600s. The logic was: only someone who didn’t need to work could possibly go around in such impractical footwear! Similar to the logic of overweight and obese men were signs of wealth because they could afford food.
The perfect pair of 4-inch heels can make or break any great outfit, but with style comes discomfort. High heels are known for being bad for your health and can be quite uncomfortable, but this barely stops women from wearing the occasionally or often daily. Women often make sacrifices for their feet, but at what price? No, I’m not talking about a sale!
A 3-inch heel — most experts consider a heel “high” at 2 inches or more — creates three to six times more stress on the front of the foot than a shoe with a modest one-inch heel.
Why women wear Heels:
• Accentuates calves and butt
• Boosts confidence
• Taller appearance
• Slimmer physique
• Job requirement
Studies are showing the towering shoes can have an affect on your spine, hips, knees, ankles and feet, all while altering your posture and gait (how you walk). One in 10 women wear high heels at least three days a week and a third have fallen while wearing them. This isn’t even counting the late night stumbles from drinking, Statistics show that high heels are one of the biggest factors leading to foot problems in women.
What happens when you wear heels?
The first thing you may notice is how good your legs and butt look; besides that, the next thing you may notice when they put on a pair of high heeled shoes is that your body weight is shifted forward, away from the heel towards the front of the foot. This shift has a huge effect on the functioning of the foot, making it more rigid and less able to absorb the shock associated with ground contact. The shift also increases the likelihood of pressure ulcers forming under the ball of the foot.
When we walk we use our big toes for balance in order to stop us falling forwards. The big toe becomes even more important in high heel when there is an increase in the load over the ball of your foot. This means that anyone without a functioning big toe would put themselves at high risk of a fall if they tried to walk in high heels.
As well as increasing the likelihood of a fall or an ankle sprain, routinely wearing of high heels can lead to long term adaptations in the muscles and tendons around the ankle joint. For example, women who regularly wear high heels can expect shortened calf muscles, a stiffer Achilles tendon and reduced ankle flexibility. These changes will result in a less efficient walking pattern that then leads to problems when they change to flat shoes, especially if they participate in sports.
How high heels affect you?
The human body will attempt to compensate for the new shoes by flexing or forward bending the hips and spine. In Order to maintain balance, the calf, hip, and back musculature becomes tense; this is what makes your butt and legs look so good. What this does by the end of the day is it causes muscle fatigue and strain. Over time, wearing heels can also cause the calf muscles to cramp and bulge
With Flat Shoes:
• Spine is fairly straight and neutral
• Calf muscles are relaxed when the feet are flat
• Flat shoes help evenly distribute the body weight through the foot
With High heels:
• Chest is more prominent
• Lower back is arched taking the spine and hips out of proper alignment
• Pressure throughout the knees are increased
• Heel mimics the way a person walks on a ramp, increasing the pressure on the balls of the feet through a downward force
There is a normal s-curve shape of the back that acts as a shock absorber, which reduces stress on the vertebrae. High heels cause the lumbar spine to flatten and you to lean forward; the body’s response is to decrease the forward curve of your lower back to keep you in line. The poor alignment may lead to muscle fatigue and back pain.
High heels increase the pressure on the ball of your foot, which will cause the rest of your body to adjust to stay balanced. The lower body leans forward while your upper body leans back to compensate
Daily and long-term use of high heels can actually lead to changes in your anatomy, balancing on those stilettos puts undue stress on your back and knees. Spondylolisthesis (slipping of one vertebra forward over another), frequently occurs as a result of wearing heels, especially in the lower back
Lower back issues:
Walking is a fine balancing act in which we have to maintain our center of gravity within relatively tight constraints to avoid falling and keep moving forward. Relatively small changes in the position of our foot can have consequences all the way up the body. Typical effects higher up include an increase in the curvature of the lower back, a change in the way the pelvis moves, or an increased backward lean. All these changes have the potential to over-strain the low back and possibly lead to back pain.
Many women will find themselves feeling tired after prolonged periods of wearing high heels shoes. This is partly because high heels put the body into an awkward position and, as a result, our muscles have to work harder to move us forward.
Metatarsalgia and Stress Fractures
With the excessive pressure on the ball of the foot, the toes must pull up to balance on the ground. This moves the padding out from under the ball of the foot and adds to the pressure placed on the metatarsal bones. The pain created at the ball of the foot is called metatarsalgia. The higher the heel, the worse the metatarsalgia. In fact, the strain in the bones over time can actually lead to stress fractures.
Heel pain is less commonly associated with high heels when compared to metarsalgia. Usually the wearer doesn’t complain of heel pain while in the high heels, but rather after frequent long wear.
The heel pain is a result of the shortening of the muscles of the calf while wearing high heels. Daily use of these shoes will create tightness. When you wear them and then go barefoot or in flats, the calves will be put on stretch and this can create a painful sensation on the back of the heel.
Sprains and Fractures
Another common problem with wearing high heels are sprains and fractures. The high heels push your body weight forward, which causes you to lean backwards to counter-balance this. This makes it more easily to twist or roll your ankle if you don’t have the muscle strength to maintain your balance. The result of wearing those higher heels creates an unstable situation, and you’re more likely to injure yourself.
Bunions and hammertoes describe crooked positions of the toes, typically associated with wearing closed-toed shoes (heels/flats/ runners). Many developed countries that have the closed-toe shoe have seen an increase in these deformities. Frequent use of the high heels exaggerates these deformities. Not only are bunions and hammertoes physically ugly, they can be painful!
Do You Have to Give Up Your Heels?
Is the answer to wear flat shoes?
Possibly, you will still have to be careful which ones you choose. Many women’s flat shoes have a pointed toe box, the front part of the shoe, which is not really big enough to accommodate the foot or the toes.
The main effect of this is that the big toe is forced outwards and this can restrict the motion of the toes and lead to toe deformity and bunions. Not surprisingly, a high amount of the operations performed to correct these problems are carried out on women.
So, even if you do decide to opt for flat shoes, make sure you consider how well the shoes fit your feet and not how good they look!
Tips to live in heels
To limit the problems that develop over time,
-we recommend the following:
Choose sensible over sexy heels (when possible – you can still feel sexy)
Select the shoes with the low heels – preferably less than 2 inches with a wide heel base. The slightly wider base spreads the load more evenly.
Those thin stiletto-type heels provide you with little support and three-inches or higher may shorten your Achilles tendon and increase your chance of spraining your ankle.
Choose the size over style
Prince charming didn’t settle on every girl that the shoe would have looked cute on, he waited until the shoe fit on his Cinderella. Why should you be any different? Pick your shoe that has a wide enough toe box that allows you to wiggle your toes a bit.
Stretch and Strengthen!
Stretching your calf will not only feel good, it will help you long term. You can stand barefoot against a doorframe, place your foot at a 45-degree angle against the doorway and then lean toward the doorframe. You should feel a stretch in the back of the calf. Doing this with a straight leg and a bent for 1 minute per leg 3 times each a couple times a day will do fantastic things for you. Putting a medium size towel on the ground and pulling it to you with your toes 3 times each every few days can help increase the small muscles in your foot
Wear heels on days that you don’t walk or stand often
Don’t wear those high heels when you’re going to have to walk 10km, climb 5 flights of stairs, carry two babies, and take care of your husband/boyfriend. Do you get the point? If you must wear them, wear them when you won’t always be on your feet.