High heeled shoes have been around for centuries. While they may be stylish, do you know the effects these shoes can have on your body from prolonged wear? From your toes to your lower back, heels can do more to your body then just causing you to stumble and fall. Dr. Lee Evans, DMOS Orthopaedic Centers Foot and Ankle Surgeon shares how wearing high heels can affect your health.
The body performs best when it is properly aligned and wearing high heels disrupts the natural form of the body causing pain — starting at your feet. Heels force your foot at an angle that results in walking on the balls of your feet. The weight and stress placed on your foot by the shoes can lead to pain and even stress fractures. In addition to pain, high heels can also cause ingrown toenails and worsen existing bunions.
You may have heard that wearing heels helps strengthen your ankle muscles. However, this is not entirely true. The University of North Carolina at Charlotte found while wearing high heels does strengthen your muscles at first, continuous use eventually leads to instability and weakening of those muscles. Along with creating muscle instability, high heels can also cause you to twist your ankle more easily. The higher the heel you wear, the more your body weight is pushed forward. This can impact your balance increasing the likelihood of injury.
Women who consistently wear high heels typically experience knee pain. When you walk in heels, you tend to bend your knee more than you usually would. This places a lot of strain on your knee joint and can trigger fractures as well as trapped nerves.
The calf muscle is located on the lower back of your legs. When you walk, run or jump, this muscle pulls the heel up to allow a forward movement. High heels force your foot into a naturally unstable position. Because of this position, as you wear heels over time, your calf muscles can shorten leading to painful cramps and spasms.
Your plantar fascia is a thick band of tissue in your foot that is connected to the calf muscle and hamstring in your legs. The hamstring connects to your pelvis and lower back. This is why in addition to making your feet hurt, high heels can also cause your lower back to ache. High heels cause you to walk on the balls of your feet which shifts your center of gravity. This forces you to arch your back while standing and also contributes to back pain.
Wearing heels that are 3.5 inches or taller can also increase your risk of osteoarthritis. Osteoarthritis is commonly referred to as “wear and tear” arthritis. It occurs when the cartilage between your joints breaks down which leads to pain, stiffness, and swelling.
Apart from giving up wearing high heels altogether, there are things you can do to help reduce the pain and chance of injury these shoes cause.
- Avoid wearing heels for extending periods of time.
- Stretch your leg muscles before and after putting them on.
- Avoid pointed toe and other shoes that squeeze your foot.
- Choose shoes with leather insoles, and that fit properly to help keep your foot from sliding.
- Make sure you have a variety of shoes in your closet so you can vary your day-to-day footwear. This will provide your foot relief from being placed in the same strained position day after day.
If you are experiencing swelling or persistent pain that does not improve with rest and ice, Dr. Evans recommends consulting your physician.