Koda Integrative Therapy Group

Therapeutic Massage and Health Partners for Recovery and Performance

Hazards of High Heels

I had a client come in, who was very proud that she had been able to recover from a major ‘accident,’ and told she would never be able to “wear heels again,” and here response to the physician was “I’ll show you!” By the Way, she has recovered enough to wear heels - and when we were talking about her medical history - my first question was why? Do you know what heels do to the foot, ankle and rest of the body?

High heels aren't often considered comfortable, but sometimes you need or want to wear them. If you are familiar with the pain and blisters that come with wearing high heels, but you might not realize that your shoes can have a real effect on the structure of the foot, ankle, and knee. Beyond temporary pain. The feeling associated with squeezing your feet into the shoes has more than one choice, in dealing with the results that shoes might cause. Help address those issues with educating yourself on the symptoms:

  • Wearing high heels can take a severe toll on your feet, and it will change the structure of the ankle and knee and hips.

  • Heels aren't the comfortable footwear option you have available to you, but there are plenty of times when no other style will do.

  • Knowing significant potential risks effecting you're feet and legs when you wear high heels, especially over extended periods, can potentially ward off those effects and help you take better care of yourself and your feet.

1. Ankle injuries and stress fractures.

Even wearing them for a minute or two, you could potentially hurt yourself.

"You could put on the shoe and headed out, literally take one step and step on a pebble, and then turn your foot inward and then either strain or break the ligament structures on the lateral side of the ankle — the outer part of the ankle is called a lateral ankle sprain," Dr. Yolanda Ragland, founder of Fix Your Feet.

There doesn't have to be a long time spent in your heels to feel the effects. This injury probably isn't the very worst thing in the world, it's undoubtedly painful, and healing takes time (and sometimes some effort). An injury like this one is a potential for anyone who wears high heels for even a minute or two but can be especially risky for people who seldom wear heels.

"People not used to wearing heels are at a greater risk of an injury like an ankle sprain because the stabilizing muscles of the feet, ankles, and lower leg that protect us aren't strong enough to balance our body in very different gait," Matt Ferguson, the co-founder of Progressive Health Innovations Inc.

Practicing walking in the heel and learning how to do it right. It might not sound as silly know as it may have before.

2. Arthritis develops from wearing heels too often.

Research has shown said that the joints in your knees or further down into your foot could become affected y arthritis if you wear heels too much. Because you are compensating while standing or walking can cause the cartilage in these joints to wear down in specific patterns. That's something that you might not consider all that often when determining what sort of shoes to wear or how often to wear high heels, but it's something to keep in mind.

3. Existing foot problems worsen.

If you already have things like hammertoes, ingrown toenails, corns, bunions, and more, wearing high heels can make those things worse.

"Bunions or hammertoes, wearing high heels can exacerbate those problems," Ragland said. She added that bunions could grow and become painful more quickly - because of the continuous impact on the toe joint. When you're wearing heels, this can put you at a greater risk of injuring yourself even when you're not wearing them.

Not only that, but you also might notice a bump form (or become a bit worse) on your heels. " A bump that forms because the shoe is rubbing on the back of the heel, which is the calcaneus, and your Achilles tendon inserts into that area, so what happens is that, because you are shortening the Achilles tendon while you are in heels — so it's kind of like it's giving a little bit of relief of strain on the Achilles tendon, but it's also bad at the same time because now it's leaving that bone vulnerable — and you can get a bump on the side, and the layman's term is called 'pump bump,' and we call it, in medical terms it's called a Haglund's deformity," Ragland explained.

4. Additional pain in your body beyond your feet.

Wearing high heels doesn't just affect your feet, but it can make things uncomfortable elsewhere in your body as well.

"Prolonged use of high heels don't just put you at risk of injury while wearing them, and you can also be at a greater risk of injury due to your body's inability to adapt when you are wearing them," Ferguson said. "Studies show that heels have been linked to significant problems such as plantar fasciitis, Achilles tendinopathies, calf issues, chronic knee pain, hamstring issues, hip problems, and back pain."

This is at least partially because of the way you carry yourself when wearing heels, which is different than the way you carry yourself when you're wearing flats. "A few key changes occur in the body to accommodate the shift in gravity when regularly wearing heels," Amy Kreydin, NBCR, CCAP, BD, a board-certified reflexologist. "We see the muscles and tendons in the legs shorten, the pelvis tilts forward, the curve of the lower back becomes exaggerated, and the upper body leans backward. In my practice, the long-term effects of high heels contribute to back pain, dysregulation in the digestive tract, neck pain, headaches, knee pain, and inflammation in the shortened tendons of legs and buttocks."

5. You walk differently.

Because you carry yourself differently when you wear high heels and your center of gravity changes, it makes sense that you might walk differently as well. You train your body into unproductive compensation and muscle tension patterns

"Talk to practitioners and those of us who work in physical therapy," Ferguson explained. "If you wear them too long and too often, your muscles and tendons will adapt to you standing/moving differently, so there will be effects on the plantar fascia, Achilles, calf muscle, and hamstrings. Then, when you return to 'normal' shoes and a 'normal' gait which allows the proper extension of the foot, Achilles, calf, and hamstring, then you get hit with an injury."

6. Your toenails can be affected too.

"When the nail looks dystrophic, or it looks strange, it doesn't look like it did before," Ragland said. But what actually is happening is that your toenails are "traumatized" because of the contact with the high heels.

Beyond the way that high heels can make your nails look, they can also affect the way that they grow. Ingrown toenails are another potential hazard that can come with wearing high heels too much, especially with an exceptionally pointy toe, Ragland said.

7. Foot structure changes end up with hammertoes.

"Having hammertoes at the same time will increase your chances of having corns on the top of those hammertoes. Because the joint is bending, and it's rubbing up against the shoe, the skin will protect itself. The body actually has two options: it can either protect itself, form a callus, or it can break down and ulcerate. The wiser thing is to form the calluses, and that's where the corns come from hammertoes," Ragland explained.

Heels can lead to hammer toes and ingrown toenails. You could still get hammertoes if you don't wear heels. Even if your chances of getting hammertoes or dealing with hyperextended toe joint, the potential for dislocated toes may be higher if you wear them.

Things that can prevent or how to care for these issues.

You don't just have to live with it, nor do you have to eschew your favorite pair of heels. In fact, Ragland doesn't discourage patients from wearing heels.

"I think as long as you do things in moderation, it should be fine," Ragland said. "I don't really discourage people from wearing heels, but I do encourage people to wear their shoes wisely."

That means not wearing them for too long, changing shoes if it's not necessary, stashing a pair of flats in your bag to throw on when needed, and wearing a different pair of shoes while in transit, for example.

Recommended stretching will help as well. Focus on stretching every day, whether they wear heels or not. Look at the opposing muscles and compensation, where a "strengthening and stretching program" can be done to help offset some of these negative effects. Including stretches that you do on the days, you wear heels and others that you do on the days you don't. It could be a better idea to take your heels off and add in a few stretches during the day.

I am recommending an Epsom salt soak when you wear them every so often and wearing different heel heights. Icing and cryostretching will help with tissue change. Reflexology will help you wear them on a more everyday basis.

Tons of different techniques and tips can use to make wearing heels not only more comfortable but also slightly less harsh on your body. Knowing what kinds of things you might be in for can help you prepare ahead, the understanding the changes over time in order to react quickly react if something goes wrong.

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