12 Nov Wearing High Heels? Think Again!
We have evolved as a human race in so many ways: one of them is the shoes that we wear. We have moved from walking/running around barefoot to wearing high heels (women, for the most part). Nearly 50% of women wear high heels, even though more than 70% say that the shoes hurt their feet, according to the American Podiatric Medical Association (APMA). Society pressures, fashion and the feeling of wearing heels (make you feel thinner) are amongst the main reasons why us women tend to endure such agony. What effects, however are these high heels having on your body?
If you think about it, it would be hard to believe that our bodies and feet were designed to fit into small shoes (where we jam our toes into a narrow crevice and put our feet in an unnatural position). Most women would have experienced some sort of foot problem from wearing high heels. Amongst them include calluses, hammer-toes, bunions, plantar fasciitis and numbness/tingling in the feet. The problem, however, is that the feet are responsible for transferring all forces throughout the rest of our bodies. The effect of wearing heels then, is not only detrimental to the feet, but also the rest of the body.
High heels significantly shorten the Achilles tendon and calf muscles, which cause a whole host of secondary problems including muscle spasm, knee pain and ankle problems, amongst others. Back pain is one of the major side-effects of wearing heels. The reason for this, is because heels change your centre of gravity and alignment. Your feet slip forward in the shoe, your pelvis tilts forward, and so in turn you compensate by leaning backwards. The result? An excessive arch in the lower back, which then redirects the forces through the lower back, as opposed to through the correct lines. The higher the heels, the greater the damage!
Some may argue that high heels have benefits, and I am sure that there are some. From a physical therapy perspective, however, I would make the following recommendations:
- Avoid high heels. Failing this, here are some other tips…
- Keep the heels as low as possible
- Go with a broader based heel (e.g. wedges) – this will help distribute the forces more evenly
- Mix it up: change the height of your heels every few days
- Quality always wins: rather spend more on a pair of shoes that offer better cushioning and support. Foot cushions also help.
Assuming (like me) you have been wearing heels for a few years, and sometimes feel the after-effect, here are some simple tips on easing the pain:
– Stretch the hips and calf muscles after wearing heels (hold each for 15 – 20 seconds)
– Use a frozen bottle of water to roll under the foot to ease the plantar fascia (roll for 5 minutes each side)