8 Common Problems from Wearing High Heels

8 Common Problems from Wearing High Heels

Dec 09 , 2021


Tags - Problems from Wearing High Heels

There’s no better feeling than when you’ve dolled yourself up, stick on a super sexy dress then finish it off with a killer pair of heels.

But whilst high heels make you feel taller and sexier, they can sometimes cause a whole range of foot problems that can increase the risk of injury later down the line.

Some of the most common complaints are in the feet itself, but can bring pain in the ankles, legs and lower back too.

Consequently, wearing high heels that are not fitted properly over long periods of time can even cause structural changes in the foot, resulting in bunions, hammertoes or other conditions that require surgical correction.

With that in mind, let’s take a closer look at 8 common problems people face from wearing high heels.

1. Feet

When your foot is forced in a downward position, there is significant pressure exerted on the bottom part of the forefoot; this pressure is dependent on the height of the heel.

Sadly, this increased pressure can result in pain or foot deformities like bunions or neuromas.

In addition, the supination of the foot can alter the alignment of the Achilles tendon, leading to a condition known as Haglund’s deformity.

Furthermore, wearing high heels can cause the ligaments and tendons that support the arch to tighten, resulting in pain in the arch, otherwise known as plantar fasciitis.

The foot aside, wearing heels will have an impact on your toes too; toes are forced into the toe box of the shoe because of the downward position.

However, if the toe box in your shoes are too narrow, your toes will be squashed together and can cause the inner and outer toes in an abnormal position, known as hammertoe.

But, even if the toe box is wider, the pressure placed on the toes can lead to uncomfortable corns, calluses and blisters.

2. Ankles

When wearing heels, the motion and power of the ankle joint is limited.

The reason being, is the muscles in the calf become shortened because of the height and cannot propel the foot forward as effectively.

Moreover, the altered and unnatural position of the ankle can also result in contraction of the Achilles tendon, and overtime, this can be inflamed, causing a condition known as insertional Achilles tendonitis. 

3. Knees

Osteoarthritis in the knee is much more common in women than it is men.

Arguably, this can be due to the fact that women are more likely to wear high heels.

When wearing heels, the distance from the floor to the knee is increased, which causes excessive force of rotation and compression.

In other words, the knee is in a persistent flexed position when wearing high heels, and this causes the tibia to turn inwards to compensate for balance.

But, this altered position causes the inner knee to be compressed; a common cause of osteoarthritis.

So, if you already suffer from osteoarthritis, it’s best to avoid wearing high heels otherwise you risk speeding up damage in these joints.

4. Hips

At the upper front of your thighs are your hip flexor muscles.

When you wear high heels, it forces these muscles to be in a constant flexed position (which is why walking around in heels can feel worse than leg day at the gym!).

Whilst you may think of this as “exercising”, chronic use of your hip flexors and associated calf muscles can make them shorten and contract.

And, contraction of the hip flexors can result in flattening of the lumbar spine and thus lead to the development of hip and lower back pain.

5. Back

Everyone has a natural “C” shaped curve in the back.

And this acts as a shock absorber that reduces the weight-bearing stress on the spine and pelvis.

But, when you wear high heels it can cause the lumbar spine of the lower back to flatten, and force the thoracic spine of the mid-back into a hyper-curved position.

In order to release some of this pressure on your back, most people will begin to lean forward - especially after wearing heels for a long period of time and you begin to feel tired.

However, poor alignment overtime can lead to overuse of the back muscles and therefore increase the risk of chronic back pain.

6. Posture

When you wear high heels, the foot is positioned and extended downwards, which increases the pressure on the forefoot and forces you to adjust the rest of your body in order to compensate for this shift in balance.

And, when the lower body is leaning forward to maintain this balance, the upper body must lean backwards as a counterweight.

Unfortunately, this throws off your body’s entire alignment, creating a stiff and unnatural posture instead of a relaxed, neutral one.

Simply, the higher your heels are, the bigger effect on your posture it will have and forces the body to lower the centre of gravity at the hips, resulting in an abnormal curve in the lower back.

7. Balance

Sometimes, when you wear high heels it can feel like walking on a tightrope.

The reason being, it takes a lot of balance and precision to walk on different surfaces, levels and inclines.

And, if you’re walking more quickly, you need to place more weight on the balls of your feet to keep yourself balanced.

As a result of essentially walking on your toes, there’s a risk of damaging the bones and connective tissues in the feet.

Out of all the different types of heels available, stilettos are the most challenging due to their super thin heel that provides very little stability.

In fact, they force your foot and ankle in an outwards position, which increases the risk of falling or spraining your ankle.

8. Gait

When you wear flat shoes or walk barefoot, normal strides are when you roll off the foot from the heel to the ball and then push off with the toes.

However, when you walk in heels, the plantar-flexed position of the foot stops you from pushing off the ground properly.

And so, this unnatural foot position makes the hip flexor muscles work harder in order to push the body forward.

Furthermore, when you wear heels your knees have to stay more flexed for balance, and this makes these muscles work much harder than normal.

Plus, the higher your heels are, the worse this becomes; you may have noticed some women with a giraffe-like gait when wearing extra high stilettos and that’s because their backs, knees and legs do not have the strength to neutralise the imbalance.

Rounding Up

OK, so I know a lot of this sounds scary, but I’m not saying you shouldn’t wear heels.

What I am saying is: you need to be careful.

As long as your heels fit comfortably, you will be fine to wear them for short periods of time, such as wearing them for a party.

However, if you like to wear heels every day for work, for example, then try to opt for heels that have a thicker block heel which are a lot easier to balance and walk in, thus minimising these risks above.

For more information, please get in touch today.

In the meantime, take a look at our full range of comfortable heels here.

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