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Are Your Killer Heels Killing More Thank You Think

July 27th 2015

Are you among the millions of women who wear high heels day after day? If so, a study suggests you’re probably causing permanent damaging to your feet and legs.

It is that time of the year where we are all busy with weddings, the winter racing season and lots of others social events. This month I am looking at the affect of high heels on women’s postures and why the next day your body feels like it has been run over (or so I’m told by all the women in my office). The aches and pains on the body, might not be effects of all the alcohol but the changes your body makes to be able to stand and walk in those killer heels.

Normally, your feet act like spring-loaded, weight-distributing shock absorbers, cushioning your skeleton from crazy amounts of pounding. Jam these engineering marvels into high heels and ouch. You’ve shifted much of your mass onto the balls of your feet and your tiny, delicate toe bones.

So what are the stats?

  • 28% of women never wear high heels
  • 72% of women wear heels at some stage
  • 31% wear them to work every day
  • 49% of women between 18-24 years of age wear high heels every day
  • 42% between the ages of 25-49years of age
  • 30% have fallen whilst wearing them.

 

What impact do high heels have on the body?

Due to high heels, the body will attempt to compensate by flexing or forward bending the hips and spine. To maintain balance, the calf/hip and back muscles become tense, causing excessive muscle fatigue and strain. By long term use, this can actively lead to changes in your anatomy, especially lower back degeneration/sciatic symptoms, shortening of calf muscle and thickening of Achilles tendon. The higher the heel, the greater the impact.

High heel solution:

Here are some recommendations if you ever wear high heels. Taking the following into consideration can decrease the negative effects of wearing high heels, without avoiding them altogether.

  1. Avoid wearing for long periods
  2. Stretch calf/hip and back muscles before or after putting them on (calf/hip flexor/child’s pose)
  3. Try and set your limit to 5cm high
  4. Purchase shoes in the afternoon when your feet are at their largest
  5. Don’t go for the pointed toe
  6. Purchase shoes with leather insoles to keep your foot from slipping
  7. Buy a wide variety of shoes and vary your footwear day to day

The take home message: If you have pain from wearing high heels, especially in lower back/hips/knees/feet, it is worth seeking a professional consultation and decreasing the effect of high heels on your body. If you don’t have pain from wearing them (which I’m told is rare!), at least be conscious of the effects and follow the recommendations to decrease the full effect on the body. I know I am walking a very fine line here as messing with a woman’s look or fashion could incur their wrath but it is something worth considering over the winter season. The women in my office wear heels everyday and should also be taking note (I’m hoping they in-fact read this as they rarely listen to me anyway!)

Written by Paul Parker for DUO Magazine, July 2015

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