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Article by Infofit

Physiological Challenges of Wearing High Heel Shoes

Have you ever wondered what wearing high heel shoes does to women’s feet.

What Does Wearing High Heel Shoes Do to Women’s Feet?

Have you ever wondered what wearing high heel shoes does to women’s feet. For long term wearers, what are the physical changes to their body?

Alters The Anatomy of Calf Muscles and Tendons

The long term costs to the body are pretty significant. Not only can heels bring a variety of foot deformities along with a direct link to knee, ankle and back problems, years of wearing high heel shoes can actually alter the anatomy of calf muscles and tendons. Fashion dictates that high heels look beautiful, it’s just that our bodies aren’t meant to wear them. When you are wearing high heel shoes, you are going to deform your body.

Researchers compared heel wearers to subjects not wearing high heel shoes on ultrasound. The subjects wearing high heel shoes calf muscle fibers were 13% shorter than non heel wearers. MRIs revealed that the Achilles tendon was thicker and stiffer in those wearing high heel shoes than in those who didn’t wear heels.

High heels will shift the force of each foot step so that the most pressure ends up on the ball of the foot and on the neighbouring bones at the base of the toes. When wearing flats, the entire foot would absorb this impact.

Foot Surgeries Are Often Linked Back to High-Heel Shoe Choice

The results with heels can lead to bunions, toe deformities, heel pain, trapped nerves and shortened Achilles tendon. In fact, for nearly 800,000 operations each year, women account for about 90% of it. Most of these surgeries are often linked back to their high-heeled shoe choice.

The problems can travel upwards to the ankle, knee, and hip joints. When walking in flats, the muscles of the leg and thigh have the freedom to stretch out and contract. However, when wearing high heel shoes and walking, the foot is tilted in a downward position.

Leads to Stiffness, Pain, and Injury

For balance, this keeps the knee, hip, and low back in a somewhat flexed position, preventing the muscles that cross the backside of these joints to stretch out as they naturally should. Over time, this leads to stiffness, pain, and injury. High heels can also cause lower back strain, because the heel causes your body to pitch forward more than normal, putting excess pressure on the back.

Train Focusing on Ankle Mobility and Calf Stretching

Personal trainers need to assess and train high heal wearing clients with caution. The physiological challenges of the high heel incline causes the calf muscles to contract. Over time the muscle fibers shorten and the Achilles tendon thickens which creates poor ankle mobility. This can cause pain when walking in another type of shoe… sneaker or minimalist shoes, for example.   It is not uncommon that these clients fail to stabilize during heavy lifts, risking knee injury.  While wearing their gym shoes (an adaptation for some), it is best to train focusing on ankle mobility and calf stretching, as well as single leg work to improve proprioception and balance.