You might love your heels but do you love what they do to your feet?
If you wear heels on a regular basis, you’ve probably found that they don’t feel half as good as they look.
They’re not the most comfortable footwear item to have on for any great length of time, and this can lead to pain, swelling and bunions. The problems don’t necessarily end there though as there can be more serious effects too.
Why Are High Heels Often a Bad Idea?
If you wear high heels a lot, there’s a chance that you could be storing up long term damage to your knees, according to research.
Wearing high heels forces your feet into an unnatural position, in which your body weight transfers to the balls of your feet and affects the balance of your lower body. This is more pronounced with a thinner heel so stilettos will unbalance you more than wedge heels, for example.
It can lead to bunions (a painful swelling that can develop in the area where your big toe meets your foot) and swellings on the nerves between your toes.
It can even change your walking style, and studies have found that this carries on even when you’re not wearing heels. This means that the effects of wearing high heels can go far beyond the length of time that they’re actually on your feet.
In this study, researchers in Australia recruited two groups of women – some of whom had typically been wearing heels for at least 40 hours in the average week in the last two years and a control group who didn’t wear high heels very much at all.
Both groups were asked to move repeatedly up and down a walkway that measured the forces that they generated as they walked. The control group went barefoot, while the “heels” group went both barefoot and in their preferred heels. Even when walking barefoot, the “heels” group moved differently to the control group – with “shorter, more purposeful strides” and with their feet in a flexed position. This meant that their calf muscles were shorter and took much more of the strain as they walked, compared to the control group.
The women were in their 20s and 30s, which indicates that wearing high heels can start to have an effect earlier on in the life and that it doesn’t take decades to feel the negative repercussions.
Shorter, tighter calf muscles are common for women who regularly wear high heels as they adjust to the height of your heels and in some cases, it can cause the Achilles tendon to shorten to the extent that wearing flat shoes is almost impossible. It also pulls other muscles out of their natural alignment and this makes you more likely to suffer from pain in your knees, lower back, neck and shoulders.
Do You Need to Ditch Your Heels?
You don’t necessarily need to go cold turkey on your heels altogether but it’s a good idea to at least cut back on how often you wear them, especially if they’re your favourite choice of footwear.
The effects of high heels on your muscles and tendons can be exaggerated if the ones you wear are always round about the same height. This makes it more likely that your muscles will shorten to accommodate this particular height but if you switch things up, this is a bit less likely.
Stretching out your calf muscles regularly can also help to counteract the extent that they are likely to shorten.