Many women love their heels. One in 10 women wear them at least three days a week but statistics show that wearing heels are a strong contributor to foot problems in almost 30 percent of women. Some of those problems can be permanent. (1)
Women who force their feet into spikey stilettos are forcing their toes into a very narrow space. This can lead to nerve damage from compression around the toes and bunions from pressure on the great toe.
Shoes that have heels higher than two inches allow the foot to slide forward. The body then tilts forward to compensate, making women arch their backs. This can cause strain on their knees, hips and lower back leading to pressure on nerves in the pelvis. Problems such as sciatica may develop.
Walking in high heels also changes your gait even when you are not wearing them if you typically wear heels much of the time.
A small Australian study discussed in the New York Times, evaluated a group of nine women who wore heels for 40 hours a week over a period of two years against a control group of 10 who rarely wore heels.
The scientists evaluated their walking pattern using electrodes to monitor their muscle activity. The women in high heels walked differently than the women who rarely wore heels, even when women in each group walked barefoot.
“The scientists found that heel wearers moved with shorter, more forceful strides than the control group, their feet perpetually in a flexed, toes-pointed position.”
“As a result, the fibers in their calf muscles had shortened and they put much greater mechanical strain on their calf muscles than the control group did.”
The researchers felt that the additional strain put on the calf muscles could lead to increased risk of injury.
Dr. Natalie Nevins, an osteopathic physician explained in an American Osteopathic Association article, “many women who wear high heels often suffer a shortening of the Achilles tendon. Stretching it again or switching to flats can be very painful; it can even lead to plantar fasciitis."
What can you do to avoid problems from wearing heels?
1) Choose heels of a sensible height.