Wearing High Heels – Effects on the Body
“Wearing high heels is especially stressful on the joints of the foot because all of the body’s weight rests there; the foot is then forced into a narrow, pointed toe box, compounding the problem.”
“The wearing of high-heeled shoes is a prime example of women inviting foot problems. Doctors of podiatric medicine see no value in high heels (generally defined as pumps with heels of more than two inches). They believe them to be biomechanically and orthopedically unsound, citing medical, postural, and safety faults of such heels.
They know, for example, that high heels may contribute to knee and back problems, disabling injuries in falls, shortened calf muscles, and an awkward, unnatural gait. In time, high heels may cause enough changes in the feet to impair their proper function. Most women admit high heels make their feet hurt, but they tolerate the discomfort in order to look taller, stylish, and more professional. In a Gallup Poll, 37 percent of the women surveyed said they would continue to wear high heels, even though they did not think them comfortable.”
Osteoarthritis is the most common form of arthritis, and it’s twice as common in women. “The use of heels is a likely reason,” Kerrigan speculates.
“Just wear flats,” Harvard researcher D. Casey Kerrigan, MD, an associate professor of physical medicine and rehabilitation, tells WebMD. “I am strongly against wearing heels at all,” says Kerrigan, who never wears them.” Throw them out,” she says, adding that women shouldn’t be victims of fashion.
“Podiatrists say high heels are “biomechanically and orthopedically unsound,” citing medical, postural and safety faults of such heels, according to the American Podiatric Medical Association. Among the litany of problems to which stilettos and their sister heels contribute are knee and back problems, disabling injuries in falls and shortened calf muscles, not to mention an awkward, unnatural gait.
Heels force the thigh muscles to work harder, putting extra strain on the knee joint and tendon that runs from the knee cap to the thigh bone. Compared with walking barefoot, high heels increase the pressure on the inside of the knee by 26 percent. Over time, this increased pressure on the knee can lead to osteoarthritis.”
“According to the American Orthopaedic Foot and Ankle Society, people take an average of 10,000 steps a day. High heels shift the force of each of those steps so that the most pressure ends up on the ball of the foot and on the bones at the base of the toes. (If you wear flats, the entire foot would absorb this impact.) A 3-inch heel — most experts consider a heel “high” at 2 inches or more — creates three to six times more stress on the front of the foot than a shoe with a modest one-inch heel.
As a result, heels can lead to bunions, heel pain, toe deformities, shortened Achilles tendons, and trapped nerves. In fact, women account for about 90% of the nearly 800,000 operations each year for bunions, hammertoes (a permanent deformity of the toe joint in which the toe bends up slightly and then curls downward, resting on its tip), and trapped nerves, and most of these surgeries can be linked back to their high-heeled shoe choice.
The problems can travel upward, too. The ankle, knee, and hip joints can all suffer from your footwear preferences. When you walk in flats, the muscles of the leg and thigh have an opportunity to contract as well as to stretch out. However, when wearing your high-heeled shoes, the foot is held in a downward position as you walk. This keeps the knee, hip, and low back in a somewhat flexed position, which prevents the muscles that cross the backside of these joints to stretch out as they normally would. Over time, this can lead to stiffness, pain, and injury. High heels can also cause lower back strain, because the heel causes your body to pitch forward more than normal, putting excess pressure on the back.”
Only a tiny percentage of people are born with foot problems. Most conditions arise from neglect or simply not knowing how to care for your feet. Women are particularly vulnerable. They have about four times as many foot problems as men do, most of which come from wearing ill-fitting shoes.
Metatarsalgia This is pain in the ball of your foot, often caused by wearing high heels. The higher the heel, the greater the pressure on the ball of your foot. A three-inch heel, for example, exerts about 76 percent more pressure than a flat shoe. You can try a metatarsal pad to help relieve the pain, but it’s also a good idea to change shoe styles to low or flatter heels.