Surprisingly, I don’t often get asked by my female patients about the effect that wearing high heels can have on your feet and lower legs. Perhaps this is because it is common knowledge that high heels are not what a physio would recommend, nor are they comfortable to wear, so they must be bad, right? Right.
In this day and age not only do women like to wear heels in a social setting, they are increasingly becoming part of the corporate dress code, which may lead to foot, lower limb and back issues.
So what are high heels doing to your feet?
Tight fitting shoes can cause any number of problems such as corns, calluses and even in-grown toenails. The height of the shoe and the position the foot sits in when wearing high heels also cause increased pressure through the forefoot. This is directly related to the height of the heel and can cause pain as well as certain deformities like hammertoes, bunions and neuromas. Unfortunately, as we get older we lose some of the cushioning on the ball of the foot which leads to even more pressure being put on the nerves and joints in this area.
As well as the feet, wearing heels throws out the rest of your body’s alignment, causing the curve in your lower back to flatten out as your body weight is transferred forward. Because your foot is fixed in a plantarflexed (pointed) position you are unable to push off the foot as you normally would, resulting in tighter hip flexor muscles. You also tend to walk with the knees in a more bent position which puts stress through the knee joints.
In summary the less time spent in heels the better! So try to save them for special occasions. If you have to wear heels for work make sure you bring a pair of flats for walking to and from the office. The smaller and wider the heel the better, or try for a pair of wedges so the foot remains in a slightly more natural position.