Statistics show that high heels are one of the biggest factors leading to foot problems in women, with up to a third suffering permanent problems as a result of prolonged wear.
So what are the harmful effects of wearing high heels?
When standing in high-heeled shoes, posture changes so that the back is arched, the pelvis and chest are thrust forward, the buttocks sticks out, and the calf muscles tighten .
A high heel shoe puts your foot in a plantarflexed (foot pointed downward) position, placing an increased amount of pressure on your forefoot. This causes you to adjust the rest of your body to maintain your balance. The lower part of your body leans forward and to compensate for that, the upper part of your body must lean back to keep you balanced. This is not your body’s normal standing position.
When standing straight up without wearing heels, the body creates a 90 degree angle with the floor, which is a normal stance.
Many women actually does not realize how high heels have affected the way they walk and how it can have an impact on their legs or feet.
When walking in high heels, your foot is in a more fixed downward position and you are not able to push off the ground with as much force. This causes your hip flexor muscles in your legs to work harder to move and pull your body forward.
New York Times‘ Health writer Tara Parker Pope cites a new study by researchers in Australia that reveals how heels affect a woman’s gait, increasing overall inefficiency and potentially making them more susceptible to strain.
For the study, the researchers fastened electrodes to the legs of women who wore heels regularly. They then asked the women to walk along a walkway in their favorite heels while the electrodes monitored muscle activity and movement patterns. The women were then asked to complete the same circuit, only this time barefoot.
After analyzing both experiments and comparing them with results from women who didn’t wear heels, the researchers discovered that women who were habituated to wearing heels had a different gait. Even when walking barefoot the heel-wearers walked differently.
Women who wore heels displayed a shortened walking style and when they walked their feet were flexed and their toes pointed. As a result, they put greater strain on the muscles of the calf, which had shortened in response.
The researchers speculate that over time, this increased amount of muscle tension may amp up the risk of injury due to strain. Questions about potential injuries aside, walking this way also just requires more effort to get from point A to B.
The normal s-curve shape of the back acts as a shock absorber, reducing reduce stress on the vertebrae. Wearing high heels causes lumbar (low-back) spine flattening and a posterior (backward) displacement of the head and thoracic (mid-back) spine. High heel shoes cause you to lean forward and the body’s response to that is to decrease the forward curve of your lower back to help keep you in line. Poor alignment may lead to muscle overuse and back pain.
The hip flexor muscles are located on the upper front part of your thighs. They are forced to work much harder and longer to help you walk because your feet are held in a downward position (plantarflexed) and have reduced power to move your body forward. If your hip flexor muscles are chronically overused, the muscles can shorten and a contracture can occur. If a contracture occurs, this could lead to flattening of the lumbar (low-back) spine.
But some of us just can’t bring ourselves to give up our high heels, so here are some new technologies for healthier high heels
• Nike Air teamed up with Cole Haan, an American shoe and accessories company, to develop high heels that utilize Nike Zoom airbag pockets, which cushion the sole and ball of the foot, alleviating the pain you may feel wearing heels. High heels with this technology average three to four inches.
• Insolia inserts, developed by New Hampshire podiatrist Howard Dananberg in 1997, are designed to lift the arch of the foot and shift body weight so it is evenly distributed between the heel and toes. The idea is to improve body alignment and reduce leg and lower back pain.
• Taryn Rose, a line of shoes founded by and named for the California-based orthopedic surgeon who developed it in 1998, offers shoes with wider toes and tighter heel surround, arch support, foam linings to absorb shock, and a rubber-and-leather sole that’s flexible when the foot bends.
• All Day Heels, the fashionable line from Canadian footwear retailer and designer Ron White, provide arch support, have built-in cushioning materials, and also include rubber compounds in the sole or heel cushion. Heel height ranges between one and four inches.
If you wear high heels frequently, See your local Raleigh Chiropractor – Did you know that most chiropractors in Raleigh, NC are trained in adjusting the extremities? This means that they can correct joint dysfunction in the feet, ankles, and knees as well. They can also do a full evaluation to see how much the stress from wearing heels is affecting the rest of your body.