How harmful are our high heels?

It is said that one in 10 women wear high heels up to three days a week and up to a third of women have fallen when wearing them. Recent statistics have shown that one of the biggest factors leading to foot pain in women is a high heel.

how harmful high heels

If you wear high heels often, you will be more at risk of developing permanent health issues later in life.

When wearing a shoe with a heel higher than two inches, the foot slides forward, forcing the toes into an unnatural shape. This unnatural shape means the body weight is distributed incorrectly, causing you to overarch your back and put strain on your hips, knees and lower back.

High heels have also been linked to the following problems:

  • nerve damage
  • bunions
  • overworked leg muscles
  • lower back pain
  • osteoarthritis of the knee.

Osteopathic physician, Natalie Nevins explains how extended wear of high heels can cause a range of ailments, for example, continually bending your toes into an unnatural position can cause ingrown toenails, discomfort and even irreversible damage to leg tendons.

Chronic pain and high heels

Wearing heels for a prolonged period of time can shorten the calf and back muscles, often resulting in pain and muscle spasms. According to Nevins, it is common for women to suffer a shortening of the Achilles tendon as a result of the heel being pointed upwards. While the tendon is designed to be flat and can be flexible, repetitive wear can cause unhealthy patterns.

Should you give up heels?

Wearing high heels does not need to be avoided completely, but there are steps to take that can help reduce the risk of developing problems. These include:

Choosing sensible heels

Shoes with a heel of an inch and a half or less, a wide base and a slightly thicker heel will distribute the weight more evenly. Stiletto heels are narrow, therefore providing little support and heels over the height of three inches can shorten the Achilles tendon.

Wear soft insoles to reduce the impact on your knees and try to wear heels only on days where you will require little walking or standing.

Alternating your daily shoe choice

When on the work commute, wear comfortable and supportive shoes such as sports trainers. Try to wear shoes that allow your body to move naturally when walking to help your feet, legs and back stretch. If you need to wear high heels, try not to wear them all day, take a spare pair to switch to after that important meeting.

Making sure they are the right size

The right size shoe means the foot will not slide forward and put extra pressure on the toes. Try to pick a shoe that has a wide enough toe space for them to wiggle.

Stretching your feet

Make time to stretch your calves and feet. Nevins recommends standing on the edge of a step in bare feet or picking up a pencil with your toes.

Try not to let your sense of style damage your ability to stand or move without pain. Your feet are literally your base support and if they are not happy, nothing above them will be!

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Written by Ellen Lees
Head of Content.

Written by Ellen Lees

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