High heels dominate the fashion industry. They give women more confidence and empowerment by elongating and accentuating the legs, increasing height and drawing attention from both men and women. However, high heels not only cause chronic foot problems, but can also lead to common complaints like leg and back pain by changing your walking pattern and posture.
When wearing high heels, the ankle is placed in a plantar flexed (toes pointing down) position resulting in in the foot not being able to push off the ground with as much force as the ankle cannot dorsiflex (extend) resulting in a shorter stride length. This causes the hip flexor muscles in the legs to work harder to move and pull the body forward. The knees also stay more bent (flexed) and forward, causing the knee muscles to work harder.
The body’s centre of gravity is shifted forward when wearing high heels causing the chest to be pushed forward and the hips flexed resulting in a forward tilt (lumbar lordosis). A 1-inch heel is enough to tilt the body forward by about 10 degrees. If the body does not adjust, it will result in falling forward. To regain balance, the body will make postural adjustments from the toes all the way up to the spine. To try to keep the body posture upright, the calf, back, hamstring muscles contract to pull the body upright resulting in muscle fatigue.
The effects of frequently wearing heels, such as for more than 40 hours per weeks can lead to the calf muscles shortening that severely that the heel cannot contact the ground when walking barefoot resulting in walking on the toes.
High heels can cause and exacerbate foot conditions such as such as corns, hammertoes, bunions, ligament damage, Morton’s neuroma and plantar fasciitis by placing a great deal of pressure on the ball of the foot.
As podiatrists, we recommend flat footwear however majority of women cannot live without high heels. We are not advocating the wearing of high heels but if you are a slave to fashion we recommend the following features:
• A wide heel such as wedges, this provides stability and more even pressure distribution at the heel, avoid stilettos.
•Compromise for work and keep your stilettos for dinner, weddings and special occasions
• A platform or thick soled shoe to reduce the angle of inclination at the ankle joint and to reduce pressure on the ball of the foot
• An ankle strap to hold the shoe on the foot preventing the toes clawing to grip onto the shoe.
• Keep heel height under 7cm.
• Walk to work in flats and change to heels for meetings.
•Remove heels periodically and stretch the calves.
At Mint Foot Care we stock Revere footwear, a brand that has been able to merge fashion with medical grade footwear. Our podiatrists can review your feet and give the best advice on footwear regarding your own history. If you have any concerns regarding your feet and footwear call Mint Foot Care today on 1300 975 980.