Most of us have heard the timeless adage “Beauty is Pain,” and wearing high heels certainly isn’t an exception. And while the short term pain and discomfort may be bearable for some, it’s the long-term effects that make high heels much more harmful than you may expect.
There’s been extensive research on the many ways your favorite pair of pumps can change your body and prematurely age your joints. The damage starts with your feet, but it surely doesn’t stop there.
When you put on a pair of heels, your center of gravity shifts forward. The heightened pressure on the balls of your feet is easily noticeable, but you may not notice how the rest of your body adapts to the shift. In order to maintain balance, your body has to adjust by pushing your chest out and arching your back.
The natural “S” curve of the spine becomes disrupted. This can lead to sciatica, a condition in which the sciatic nerve is pinched, causing shooting pains, numbness, and tingling in the lower back that spreads to the hips, buttocks, and one or both legs. Wearing high heels for a prolonged amount of time can permanently alter your body. The more you wear them, the more difficult it will be for your body to retain its natural, healthy position.
“High heels put the foot at an angle and pull muscles and joints out of alignment, so the effects aren’t limited to the feet.”
~Dr. Sajid A. Surve (osteopathic medicine)
2. Bunions and Corns Get Worse
Most heels have a narrow, tapered toebox to make your foot appear slimmer. It may look pretty and more feminine, but the effects of a tight toebox can be incredibly painful. It’s the number one cause of bunions and corns for women, which is probably why bunions are 10 times more common in women than in men. If you already suffer from either, wearing high heels will only make them worse. You could also start to develop hammertoes and ingrown nails, which are highly susceptible to fungal infections.
3. Increased Risk of Osteoarthritis
Knee osteoarthritis is also more common in women than in men, which can lead to disability. A team of researchers from Stanford University Medical Center tested the effects of heels on gait and the subsequent repercussions on the knees.
Wearing high heels requires you to bend your knees more than usual, adding increased pressure on knee joints and hips, especially for women who are overweight. “Many of the changes observed with increasing heel height and weight were similar to those seen with ageing and OA [osteoarthritis] progression,” the researchers said. There are many other factors that can also lead to osteoarthritis, but wearing heels certainly doesn’t help.
Once your spine, muscles and tendons have adapted, even going back to flat footwear can still cause injury. The muscles in your calves and back could shorten, as well as the tendons. Your tendons could also thicken, making it much more difficult and painful to reverse.
You could take one wrong step and end up spraining your ankle. The changes in your muscles can lead to pains and spasms. Some women even end up developing Haglund’s deformity, which is a bony enlargement on the back of the heel that is incredibly painful.
Luckily, there are quite a few ways to alleviate and heal the pain inflicted by a pair of high heels. The most important thing you can do for your body is to stretch regularly, especially your calves and plantar fascia. The methods of reflexology are also a great way to massage out the pain.
The best way to guarantee relief and comfort is to buy the best shoe for your health! When you wear KURU shoes, you don’t have to sacrifice style for comfort.
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Dr. Natalie A. Nevins, an osteopathic physician from Hollywood, Calif., told the AOA:
“Many women who wear high heels often suffer a shortening of the Achilles tendon because once the heel is pointed upwards, it tightens up. Stretching it again or switching to flats can be very painful; it can even lead to plantar fasciitis.”
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