High Heels: The Health Risks

Are your feet and knees hurting while wearing your favorite pair of heels? Perhaps your back and hips are aching after taking your heels off after a long work day? You may be asking yourself why these high-heeled shoe styles are causing painful effects on your body. Wearing high heel shoes throughout your day or for long periods of time places added stress and pressure on various parts of your body. This extra stress can harmfully affect not only your knees, but also your hips, lower back, and Achilles tendon.

The Bruce Carter Orthopaedic and Spine Center is here to help you dive into the reasoning behind your high heel-induced pain, as well as discuss prevention and adjustment methods that can steer you towards comfort.

The Causes

High heels change their wearer’s walking pattern. The average person who regularly sports heels takes shorter and more forceful strides when walking than those who regularly wear flat shoes. These types of steps can put extra pressure on the knee joints, which may lead to osteoarthritis (the erosion of cartilage between bones, causing bones to rub against each other).

When wearing heels, the body must adjust and shift its overall weight and center of gravity to compensate for the heel of the shoe. The higher the heel, the higher the risk of lower back, hip, and knee issues.

With habitual wearing of heels two inches or higher, the Achilles tendon and calf muscles can face changes in shape. As the shoe heel pushes up the human heel, the Achilles tendon and calf muscles are facing increased pressure. The tendon may shorten, and the muscles can stiffen and reshape. This can occur in individuals who frequently wear heels, and can create pain in the body’s lower extremities.

After years of high heel wear and body readjustment due to the shoes, you may experience discomfort when wearing flat shoes or walking barefoot. The body will have adapted to the shape of the heels, causing irritation when other types of shoes are worn.

How to Prevent or Lessen the Painful Effects

If you are feeling the consequences of constantly wearing heels, there are steps you can take to help combat the aching and discomfort. These suggestions can help decrease the pain you are feeling from wearing high heel shoes.

  • Change your shoe choice – Go for flat shoes, or shoes that provide more support and cushion.
  • Switch up your exercise routine – Reduce frequent stress on your knees, hips, and lower back while exercising. Rowing, swimming, and the elliptical are low-impact types of exercises that are easier on your joints.
  • Minimize the amount of days you wear heels – Try adding flats or wedges to your shoe selection.
  • Go for a shorter heel – Heels two inches or less put less pressure on joints.
  • Stretch your calves before and after wearing heels – Allow yourself time for lunges or other calf-stretching methods.
  • Place cushions in your shoes and heels – Make your shoe choices more comfortable for your feet.

If you are feeling continued or intense pains in your joints from your shoe wear, do not hesitate to call the experts at the United Orthopaedic and Spine Center. For more information or to schedule an appointment please call UHC Orthopaedics at 681-342-3500.



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