As we all know, wearing high heels for long periods can take its toll on your body. It can cause a multitude of musculoskeletal problems and its effects are not just limited to your feet and legs. Brenda Vien, Practice Manager at Excel Physiotherapy, writes about the effects of high heels and the strategies we can undertake to wear them safely.
What is actually happening within your body whilst wearing heels?
Posture is adversely affected as your centre of mass is pushed forward. This takes the hips and spine out of alignment.
Hyperextending the lower back can shorten hip flexors and lead to lower back pain. Wearing high heels can also impair balance and stability – posing a greater risk of falls which can lead to sprained or broken ankles. Pain can occur in the plantar fascia and the joints of the toes (metatarsalgia).
Research has long been discouraging to wearers of high heels.
A survey within a biomechanics study of 200 young women wearing high-heeled shoes indicated frequent complaints of leg and low back pain, compared to a control group (Lee et al, 2001).
An experimental study indicated that the heel elevation height is correlated with more effort from lower limb muscles (particularly calf muscles) and results in worse functional mobility (Hapsari & Siong, 2016).
This and other studies showed that the higher the heel height, the shorter the Achilles tendon. A study by Esenyel, et al (2003) found that wearing high heels caused larger muscle moments and increased stresses occur at the hip and knee, which may to a variety of musculoskeletal issues. Other studies showed increased Achilles tendon stiffness, reducing the ankle’s active range of motion (Csapo et al 2010).
Don’t throw out your favourite pair just yet, we have developed strategies to help you feel good in your stilettos!
We know that all this sounds quite morbid, so our team has put together a few simple, effective strategies you can implement to take a safe approach in wearing high heels.
Whilst we women like to look amazing in high heels, we need to feel amazing, too! Our feet need special attention as they take us everywhere in life and need to have a solid foundation.
Remember: Prevention is the key.
Strengthening the muscles in your feet allow for the bones of your feet and ankle to better hold their proper alignment. Stretching of the hip, though, and calf muscles is also important and should be performed before and after long periods of wearing high heels.
So let’s keep it simple here and look at a few basic stretches that you can do during the days:
THE CALF, QUADRICEPS AND HAMSTRING STRETCHES
Hold each position for sixty seconds to get a maximum effect:
Other preventative strategies:
• Taking short breaks during the day from wearing high heels and stretch in those periods.
• Walk to work in flats and then changing into heels once you’re in the office.
• Try heels that have a bigger platform which increase your base of support.
• Try a lower heel height. A study completed in 2005 found that heel elevation greater than 25mm was associated with hallux valgus and plantar calluses in women.
We’re always here if you have any questions about strength and conditioning programs for heel pain. Call us today at 1300 650 510.
We have a variety of yoga and Pilates classes which are excellent for helping to stretch and strengthen. We also have a number of treatment options ranging from Physio, Dry Needling, Assisted Stretching, and Massage. For online Physiotherapy and Massage appointments, book here.
Brenda Vien is Practice Manager at Excel Physiotherapy and Wellness.