Wearing High Heels: Advice From a Physiotherapist
High-heeled shoes are part of everyday life for many women around the world. Worn occasionally or daily, they exist in all shapes, sizes and heights. However, they can affect physical health and it is important to wear them sparingly.
Writer has been a physiotherapist for over 10 years and is very familiar with the effects of these shoes on physical health. In this article, he tells us more about the consequences of their use while offering tips and exercises to limit the effects in everyday life.
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The effects of high heels on physical health: what you need to know
Numerous scientific studies show that wearing high heels may increase the risk of injury and pain. However, no study makes a direct link between a category of injury and this type of shoe (like “if you wear high heels, you will necessarily have back pain”).
It is also important to emphasize that the impact of high heels on physical health depends on each individual. The use of these shoes will not necessarily cause pain. However, it can accentuate or aggravate an existing problem. For example, a person with lower back pain may feel more pain if he is wearing high heels.
The known impact of high heels
While there is no direct link between the use of high heel shoes and any particular injury category, some impacts on balance, posture or coordination are well known and need to be considered.
High-heeled shoes, especially with fine heels, cause a decrease in balance and stability. The risk of sprain (ankle) is therefore greater, especially when it comes to crossing an obstacle (a walk, a sidewalk, etc.).
It is observed that the wearing of high heels leads to several muscle retractions. Among others, the retraction of the calves and tendons of Achilles is the most documented. This can decrease the amplitude of the ankle.
Walking with high-heeled shoes is not natural for the body. The muscle coordination is modified, which can affect the knees, hips, trunk or neck. Moreover, as this way of walking is different, it increases muscular fatigue. It is also interesting to note that physical exertion intensifies when you walk with high heels (oxygen consumption and heart rate increase).
The posture also feels the repercussions. It is observed that the head is further forward, the back is more hollow (lumbar lordosis) and the pelvis is tilted forward (anteversion of the pelvis). This postural change also involves compression of the trunk.
Although they are not always well known, the effects of this type of footwear on the health of your feet can be important. Rigidity, heel height and compression at the front of the shoe can cause hallux valgus (onion). In this case, the base of the big toe deviates towards the second toe, causing deformation of the forefoot. Regarding this issue, it has been shown that even a heel of as little as 2.5 cm in height causes visible effects.
High Heels: Good Practices and Exercises
Whether you wear your high heels occasionally or daily, here are some tips to reduce the risk of injury and pain.
Listen to your body
It is important to listen to your body and to be alert to unusual pain signals. If wearing high heels causes pain or aggravates existing pain while standing, your shoes may not be suitable for you. It is therefore recommended to gradually reduce the use.
Do not change your habits overnight
If you decide to stop wearing heels and have been wearing them for a long time, it is not recommended to start walking flat. Gradually decrease the size of your heels and the frequency with which you wear them. While wearing a heel may affect the risk of injury, stopping it from wearing while you are used to it can also have repercussions. Your body has adapted to this type of shoe, it must relearn to walk and move differently.
Use the right shoe
If you want to continue wearing high heels, it is important to choose a quality shoe and wear it only occasionally. Choose high-heeled low-heeled shoes (less than 5 cm) that are flexible and ideally closed to hold your ankles.
During pregnancy and adolescence?
Since pregnancy naturally increases lumbar curvature and impairs a woman’s balance, wearing high heels is strongly discouraged. In addition, many experts believe that the mechanical changes associated with wearing high heels during adolescence persist in adulthood. So, it’s important to think about the consequences of your shoes, even during youth.
Test: How many heels are you wearing?
Some women may have trouble realizing the heels they wear on a daily basis. However, the height of the heel has a very important influence on your posture, your balance or the health of your feet. As a result, feel free to measure them so you can see what impact they may have on your physical health.
Do exercises regularly
Well-targeted exercises can limit some of the effects of high heels. These exercises should be performed as often as you wear this type of shoes. The more you wear them, the more you will have to do these exercises regularly during your day.
Exercise 1 – Toe abduction
- Series: 3 | Repetitions: 10
- Keep your toes apart from each other as much as you can.
- Rest your toes and repeat.
Exercise 2 – Calf Stretching
- Repetitions: 3 | Hold: 30 s
- Stand with both hands on the wall.
- Separate the feet about 1 m from the wall.
- Place one leg behind the other and tilt your body forward without bending the back knee until you feel a stretch in your back calf.
- Hold the stretch and release.
Exercise 3 – Basin retroversion
- Series: 3 | Repetitions: 10
- Stand upright, then retrovate the pelvis by contracting the glutes and rounding the lower back.
- Do not move the thoracic portion of your spine while performing this movement, only the pelvis should move.
Important: If you regularly wear high heels, do not believe that these exercises will completely eliminate all the disadvantages of wearing this type of shoes.