A high heel shoe puts your foot in a plantarflexed (foot pointed downward) position, placing an increased amount of pressure on your forefoot. This causes you to adjust the rest of your body to maintain your balance. The lower part of your body leans forward and to compensate for that, the upper part of your body must lean back to keep you balanced. This is not your body’s normal standing position. The normal s-curve shape of the back acts as a shock absorber, reducing reduce stress on the vertebrae. Wearing high heels causes lumbar (low-back) spine flattening and a posterior (backward) displacement of the head and thoracic (mid-back) spine.
A plantarflexed foot disables you from pushing off the ground with much force. This causes your hip flexor muscles in your legs to work harder to move and pull your body forward. If your hip flexor muscles are chronically overused, the muscles can shorten and a contracture can occur. If a contracture occurs, this could lead to flattening of the lumbar (low-back) spine.
When wearing heels, the knee stays flexed (bent) and the tibia (shin bone) turns inward. This position puts a compressive force on the inside of the knee, a common site of osteoarthritis.
High heels limit the motion and power of the ankle joint. The calf muscles are shortened because of the heel height. The position of the ankle may also cause a shortening of the achilles tendon which increases the pull of the achilles tendon where it attaches on the back of your heel bone and may cause a condition called insertional achilles tendonitis.
Wearing a 3 1/4 inch heel increases the pressure on the bottom of the forefoot by 76%. The increased pressure may lead to pain or foot deformities such as hammer toes, bunions, and neuromas. The narrow, pointed toe box that is often found in high heel shoes also causes damage such as corns, callouses and blisters. Things need to be in alignment. It is recommended that you only wear high heels for special occasions and even then only a heel height of 1 1/2 inches.
The friends and clients of Elise and Half Moon Studios who regularly wear heels are being challenged to wear only flats for one month and to chronicle the difference in their bodies. See how you can be involved in the challenge, too!