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Are heels bad?

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Often you hear people asking “are heels bad for you?”. Here is some insight into why wearing high heeled shoes is not good for your feet and general posture.

Women love to wear high heels, but they will suffer for their vanities. When a woman wears high heels, a new dynamic equilibrium occurs. If one body part becomes fixed, the rest of the body must compensate with altered movement patterns resulting in a series of irritated muscles and stiff joints.

In young women, this is accommodated fairly well by ankle and hip mobility and low back stability. Unfortunately, many high-heel wearing women find that as they age, the hip joints stiffen. Shock waves from each successive step shoot through the lumbar spine causing disc compression, ligamentous laxity and facet joint spurring. Women should be cautious about wearing heels constantly, or over long periods of time.

The foot functions as a compliant mechanism of reception and distribution of body weight, adapting to surface irregularities and acting as a rigid lever that propels the body forward during walking. Footwear gives support to the feet and should be worn to enhance their functions, instead of interfering with the transmission of information from the pressures on the adequate support areas or during the movements needed while walking. Footwear can often change the ideal alignment of the feet.

Exaggerated use of high-heeled footwear causes shortening of the calf musculature. Frequent high-heel wearers thus often feel uncomfortable when wearing flat-soled shoes as the calves are required to lengthen in these types of shoe. The elevation of the heel bone leads to altered walking patterns and can eventually cause foot instability.

There is an important relationship between heel height and overload on the arches of the foot. High heel use changes body mass distribution, reducing the pressure on the heel bone and shifting it to the forefoot. The weight born by the tip of the foot is in direct proportion to the height of the heel. Continuous use of high heels results in overload, which compresses the joints at the base of the toes (the balls of the toes).

Good posture cannot be achieved unless the feet are planted firmly on the ground. As a result, feet deformities and changes in loading also change posture. This raises the issue that if wearing high heels changes the mechanics of the foot, it eventually generates muscular changes to the lower limbs and consequently produces ascending compensatory postural changes.

Clearly, the human foot was not designed to walk in stilettos nor cowboy boots for that matter. The foot is specifically constructed to land in a heel to toe rolling motion whereby the foot arch, ankle, and knee absorb shock and release the ground reaction-force up the body’s kinetic chain to counter-rotate the torso and pelvis. The heeled shoe steals this propulsive power from tendons, ligaments and leg muscles.

Not only do heels place the foot and leg under greater stress to achieve the demands of propulsion, but the borrowed power must be leeched from higher structures in the kinetic chain – the knees, thigh muscles, hips, and trunk. As a small army of anatomical reinforcements are recruited to rescue the handicapped fascial tissues, the body continues to lose energy to the ground.

Shoe heels of any height set in motion a series of negative consequences, rendering normal walking impossible. Ask your chiropractor to check your feet. He or she should be able to adjust or manipulate the joints of the feet to relieve the effects of walking in high heeled shoes.

*DISCLAIMER: This discussion does not provide medical advice. The
information, including but not limited to, text, graphics, images and
other material contained in this discussion are for informational
purposes only. The purpose of this discussion is to promote broad
consumer understanding and knowledge of various health topics. It is not
intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis
or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other
qualified health care provider with any questions you may have regarding
a medical condition or treatment and before undertaking a new health
care regimen, and never disregard professional medical advice or delay
in seeking it because of something you have read in this blog.

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