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How High Heels Affect Our Body Positioning

Are some fashion sacrifices really worth it?

Heels are weapons of flirtation, elongation, and fashion. However, they are also dangerous for the human body. The prolonged wear of high heels can lead to some unfortunate body problems for women. Up to a third of women suffer from permanent problems. The extended wear of high heels and shaping your foot and toes into an unnatural positioning can lead to bunions, ingrown toe nails, nerve damage, and damage to leg tendons. In addition, the strain that high heels create can lead to plantar fasciitis, low back pain, osteoarthristis of the knee, and overworked or injured leg muscles. It may seem as though high heels may strengthen ankle muscles, but, over time they also lead to instability and the weakening of those very same muscles.

How High Heels Completely Change Your Positioning

When wearing high heels, the toes slip forward into the shoe and redistribute your weight incorrectly. This increased weight on your toes and forefoot cause the body to reposition to adjust for balance. Heels cause the body to tilt forward, and to compensate, the body leans backwards, overarching the back. The chest in pushed forward as well as the lower back, creating pressure and strain in these areas. This causes the hips and spine to move out of alignment and adds an additional pressure on the knees.

More on the Effects on the Back

The purpose of the s-curve of the back is to act as a shock absorber in order to reduce stress on the backbone and the vertebra forming it. Due to the body having to lean forward when in high heels, the curve of the lower back is also decreased. This curve is what is supposed to keep you in line naturally. Have back pain? This might be why. The lumbar spine, or the lower back where the spine is supposed to curve inward, flattens when wearing high heels.

Heel Height & Weight Pressure 

When the feet are flat on the ground, body weight and pressure are evenly distributed between the heel and forefoot. However, in high heels, the higher the heel, the more pressure is increased on the forefoot. This added pressure on the ball of the foot is what can lead to sore knees, bunions and many more medical issues.

(As indicated by the Spine Health Institute)

1-inch heels: 22% increase

2-inch heels: 57% increase

3-inch heels: 76% increase

Tips and Tricks

Some may abhor the idea of giving up their pumps. Not to worry, there are some solutions to help drastically lower the negative effects of high heels.

  • Avoid wearing high heels for long periods of time.
  • Stretching your leg muscles before and after wearing high heels can help reduce strain and the tightening of muscles.
    • Using a towel around your foot, pull your foot towards your body for 30 seconds at a time. This will help stretch your lower leg muscles.
    • A theraband can come in very useful in stretching the ankle muscles. Using a theraband around your foot as resistance, move your ankle forwards and backwards.
    • Balance training! Stand on one leg for 15 to 30 seconds at a time and then alternate.
  • Be practical- set your limit to two inches.
  • Buy shoes in the afternoon, when your feet are at their largest (this is because feet swell after a bit of walking).
  • Select shoes with leather insoles to keep the foot from slipping.