High Heel Health: What Are Your Heels Doing to Your Feet?

According to researchers, the average woman has about 20 pairs of shoes in her closet. If any of those shoes include high heels of two inches or greater, they may actually pose a substantial risk. We’re not just talking about tumbling off a curb or falling off the runway — we’re talking about physical deformities, chronic pain and muscular shortening. High heel health definitely gives new meaning to the oft-repeated phrase “To be beautiful, you must endure discomfort.”

The problem with high heels lies in their basic construct. A heeled shoe forces the weight of the wearer forward, toward the toes. This in turn creates an imbalance in the body that has to be rectified. Thus, an unnatural stance is adopted by women wearing heels. The stance, as well as the hip-swaying action, may seem socially acceptable and even attractive, but it’s actually causing biomechanical problems and other problems, as well.

High Heel Health: What Are Your Heels Doing to Your Feet?

Let’s take a look at the negatives of wearing high heels in order of least critical to most severe:

1. Your Toenails and Toes Can Begin to Take on Weird Shapes

Like having pretty feet? Those tootsies might not look so sweet after consistent wearing of heels for about eight hours a day. Common afflictions for heel wearers include ingrown toenails, toenails that grow in weird configurations and misshapen toes that don’t bounce back to a normal shape when the shoes are removed. Oh, and blisters are a known worry, especially with ill-fitting high heels.

2. You Could Experience Chronic Pain

Many women who wear heels have difficulty with recurring back pain, leg pain, knee pain, hip pain and other discomforts. Even when the shoes are removed, the pain remains. This is due to the strange way women have to walk when they are wearing high heels. The longer they’re in the heels, the more likely they are to experience some pain.

A woman wearing black pants and black high heels.

3. You Could Develop Conditions Like Plantar Fasciitis

When you take off your shoes for the day, your feet and legs have to adjust to a normal way of walking and standing. For some women, this transitioning has a negative effect and leads to highly painful conditions such as plantar fasciitis. Though it is possible to reverse these conditions, the treatment always includes staying away from heels for a period of time to promote healing.

4. Your Muscles Could Shorten

It’s been scientifically shown that high heels encourage a shortening of the muscles of the calf because they simultaneously lengthen the tendons of the lower leg. Over time, those muscles get shorter and shorter. Eventually, they cannot return to their pre-heel shape.

Is it worth the pain to get the accolades of friends, colleagues and strangers on the street? For some women, the answer will always be a resounding “Yes!” Others may prefer to save their tootsies and bodies by only wearing so-called sensible heels that are fewer than two inches from the ground.

Image: Lesley Choa

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