They may be stylish and trendy but high heels can actually do you more harm than good. Not only do high heels increase your risk of falling, but when worn frequently they can damage your feet, ankles, knees, calves and spine. They can also impair blood circulation in your lower limbs.
High heels can increase your risk of developing sprains, fractures, swollen joints and health conditions such as:
Lower back pain
Achilles tendonitis – a condition that affects the Achilles tendon connecting the calf muscles to the heel
Blisters, corns, calluses
Spondylolisthesis – a spinal condition affecting the spinal bones or vertebrae
How do high heels harm you?
Your leg is designed to be at about a 90-degree angle to your foot with your body weight distributed evenly across your foot. However, when you wear high heels, you tend to lean forward and the weight of your body shifts to the balls of your feet or your forefeet.
This can put pressure on other parts of your body. The muscles and tendons in your calves, for instance, are likely to shorten which may lead to stiffness and an increased risk of sprains and injuries.
Daily use of thin stiletto heels may even damage the vertebrae in the lower or lumbar region of your spine, leading to spondylolisthesis.
A study on high heels found that “long-term high heel use may compromise muscle efficiency in walking and are consistent with reports that high heel wearers often experience discomfort and muscle fatigue. Long-term high heel use may also increase the risk of strain injuries.”
8 tips to wearing heels safely
Choose heels that are 4-5 cm or less.
Wear thicker heels (e.g. wedges, platforms), which can improve balance. Heels with a gradual slope distribute your weight evenly and reduce the pressure on the balls of your feet.
Your heels should fit well so ensure they are the right size for your feet. Heels that are loose can cause your feet to slide, which can cause blisters and bleeding.
Choose shoes that are wide at the toes instead of pointy ones, which squeeze your toes together and can cause bunions and other bone deformities.
Limit your use of high heels to a couple of times in the week, and avoid wearing them for long hours.
Take off your heels while you sit at your desk.
Stretch your feet and calves frequently during the day.
If you have to wear heels to work, opt for flats on weekends.