—by Jeff Jurmain, MA
Calling all women who like to dress to impress: those high heels may be doing a serious number on your feet and legs.
A new study has shown that, over the long-term, wearing high heels can change the makeup of the muscles and tendons in the calf. And they can also create foot aches and deformities. It was published last week in the “Journal of Experimental Biology.”
What happens is that the often-steep slope of a heeled shoe makes calf muscles contract while balancing on it. This means that muscle fibers can shorten, tendons can thicken, and deformities can set in to the point where even wearing flat shoes can cause pain.
In reaching this discovery, researchers invited 80 women to take part, who had been wearing at least two-inch heels regularly for at least two years. Eleven of these women reported having discomfort walking in flat shoes.
Compared to those who didn’t regularly wear heals, these women had fibers in the calf muscle that were 13% shorter. The infamous Achilles tendon was thicker and more rigid as well, in those who wore heels. Quite simply, it was plain to see that the mechanics behind wearing high heels can change a woman’s foot and lower leg for the worse.
High heels can also stress the knees and back as well. And the often-narrow toes at the shoe’s front can thicken tissue between the third and fourth toes and force toes to bend at middle joints, often forcing them to remain bent even when not in shoes. On the back of the heels, straps can dig into the Achilles tendon and, if too tight, can trigger bunions on the big toes. Add on the fact that high heels can get caught in grates and sidewalk cracks and cause spills, and it’s clear that they are not the best-functioning footwear available.
Researchers are actually advising women who are suffering from foot pain to take anti-inflammatory medication as well as to avoid wearing high heels and switch to flatter, more comfortable items. Women who love their high heels are advised to take a seat as much as possible throughout the day to avoid straining their feet. And wider heels are more ideal, as they will distribute the body’s weight better.