Almost every day we see clients in our clinics who have developed foot pain and foot problems from wearing high heel shoes. Here's what you need to know about high heels and the damaging effects they can have on your body.
It's a dilemma faced by many the world over when dressing up; do you want to look great for an event by wearing high heeled shoes, or be able to walk and feel your feet at the end of the night?
The origins of the high heel relate to horse riding and the ability to hold the feet securely in the stirrups of the saddle.
High heels, however, quickly became fashionable for rich courtiers and kings in particular who wanted to look more ‘masculine’ like the warriors who wore them.
The first recorded instance of a high heeled shoe being worn by a woman was by Catherine de Medici in the 16th century.
She was about 150 centimeters tall and it is said she wanted to appear taller at her wedding.
High heel shoes can have many effects on your body.
The first and most obvious effect is to make the wearer look taller.
High heeled shoes do this by forcing the foot into an abnormal position with the front part of the foot pointing down so all the body weight is being placed onto the heads of the long metatarsal bones in the front of the feet.
This causes a massive pressure increase on part of the body that has not evolved to tolerate this kind of load.
Abnormal stress on this part of the body can cause forefoot pain, damage to the ligaments and joints in the balls of the feet and many other painful foot problems.
Most high heel shoes are very tight fitting in the toe box which can cause foot problems by itself.
However, in combination with a very high heel, a tight toe box may cause corns, calluses, forefoot pain (metatarsalgia), neuromas as well as deformity of the toes like hammer toes.
When worn for long periods of time, high heeled shoes can make the calf muscle and Achilles tendon shorten and tighten.
This makes it more difficult to return to flatter shoes like athletic footwear and may make the tendon more susceptible to degenerative changes like tendinopathy.
Another postural change associated with high heels is to tip the pelvis forwards.
This will increase strain on the lower back by increasing the curvature of the spine and can cause pain and dysfunction, especially in those people who already suffer from back problems.
High heels with narrow heels like stilettos increase your risk of falls and muscle strain in the legs as the body has to work much harder to stabilise itself on top of such a small ground contact.
I have seen far too many clients who have ‘fallen off’ their high heels and done significant injury to their ankles in the process.
High heels should certainly be worn with caution if you suffer from balance issues or have a history of falls.
I'm so confident I can help you that I'd love to chat with you personally about your high heels and foot problems, it's what I'm passionate about!
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Yours in building healthy families, from the feet up,
Owner and Principal Podiatrist, Complete Podiatry
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