The Harm in High Heels

March 7, 2017|

Dr. Shermi Parikh

Anyone who has ever worn high heels knows just how uncomfortable, and even painful, they can be. Though fashion trends are moving away from high heels as the ultimate sign of glamour and prestige, we still wear heels on special occasions, or even as part of company dress codes (yes, even in 2017!). 

This movement away from heels as an everyday dress item is largely due to the physical impact they have on the body. Your feet are your body's base for both movement and posture, so your footwear can affect your skeleton from your feet all the way up your spine. When you wear heels, your weight is shifted towards the balls of your feet , upsetting the body's balance and requiring it to over-compensate by forward bending in the hips and spine. The higher the heel, the more your hips and back overextend to compensate for the shifting balance. Over time this causes excess muscle fatigue and strain, and can have a lasting impact on your knees, hips, and lower back. 

A Breakdown of How High Heels Affect the Body

1. Your Feet 

The pressure placed on the front part of your foot from wearing heels can lead to joint disease in your foot bones, hammertoe deformities, calluses, bunions, ingrown toenails, and neuromas. 

2. Your Achilles Tendon

Wearing heels on a daily basis shortens and stiffens the achilles tendon - the tissue that connects the calf muscle to the heel bone - which can result in chronic pain above your heel. 

3. Your Knees

Wearing heels causes your weight to shift toward the ball of your foot, requiring your knees to move forward to compensate for this shift in balance and pressure. This places excess stress on the knees and misaligns the joints, resulting in chronic knee pain. 

4. Your Back and Hips

Just like your knees, when you wear heels your back is pushed forward, bringing your hips and spine out of alignment. Misaligned hips can result in pain in seemingly unconnected places - such as the inner thigh, groin, and even the neck. 

Regular stretching before and after wearing heels for long periods of time can help to alleviate some of the impact on the body. Take a look at Women's Health Magazine's suggested exercises for heel-wearers, and take a few minutes a day to be proactive about your foot health!