You only have two feet that need to last you a lifetime, so take good care of them. Shoe choice plays a big part in how our feet feel. One question I commonly am asked is, “Why do high-heeled shoes hurt my feet?” I realize that in some situations wearing high-heeled shoes are necessary and not just a personal choice. The purpose of this article is to help you make a well-informed decision about wearing high heels and how they impact the rest of the body.
Did you know that in Carmel, California; there is a law that does not allow high heeled shoes on public sidewalks? It was written in 1963 to limit liability, however I understand it is currently not enforced!
High heels come in many forms
- Dress shoes
- Dress sandals
- Work boots or Cowboy boots (some)
- Cuban heels
How high is a high heel?
Anything over 1.5 inches is considered a high heel. The height of the heel is determined by the difference between the height of the shoe at the heel, minus the height at the front of the shoe. Platform shoes add quite a bit of height at the front of the shoe, and sometimes the heel as well.
What do high heels do to your body?
Let me get just a little technical with you here and I will explain this.
- They make you take a shorter step, cause you to bend your knee excessively, and increase the curvature in your lower back (lordosis).
- They decrease your balance, making you more prone to slips and falls.
- They cause your Achilles tendon to shorten and become stiffer, and less able to stretch.
- They cause more muscle strain and activation, leading to fatigue.
- They increase the pressures on the ball of your foot. This can cause pain and permanent injury to the ball of the foot.
- They increase supination (stability) of the foot and decrease pronation (shock absorption). This may be beneficial if you are an over-pronator. Have you ever noticed how loud high heels can be? This is because your foot is absorbing less of the shock.
- They change the normal relationship of leg rotation in the lower leg, having potentially negative effects on the knee.
- They increase your oxygen consumption and heart rate.
What features should I look for in a high heeled shoe?
- Find a shoe with the toe area roughly matching the shape of your foot, avoid shoes with a very pointed toe. When your toes are scrunched together they cannot move properly and can result in foot and toe deformities. (Figure 3)
- Open-toed sandals offer more room and less crowding of the toes (Figure 4)
- Try to keep the heel height to less than 2.5 inches. (Figure 5)
- Heel spikes that are thicker are more stable than narrow spikes. (Figures 6 & 7)
- Avoid spikes in the middle of the heel as they are extremely unstable and your risk of an ankle sprain could be high. (Figure 8)
- Avoid shoes with a memory foam top cover, these actually interfere more with your balance and are not a good thing. (Figure 9)
What should I do if I choose to wear high heels?
Only wear them when you must, take them off during the day while sitting at a desk and change out to more comfortable shoes when at home.
- Use a good insole and shoe to encourage the proper movement of the foot when not wearing heels, and when exercising
- Stretch the back of your leg when first getting up in the morning and again in the evening before bed.
- Are your feet sore? Soak in lukewarm water with Epsom salts for 20 minutes, 2-3 times a day. A good foot massage always feels great!
What to do to avoid injury in high heels:
- Walk only on flat surfaces and do not walk on softer ground or in the sand. The spikes make great soil aerators when the ground is wet and will ruin the look of the shoe as they sink into the ground. (True story, yes I witnessed this first hand!)
- Have someone nearby to help you in case you lose your balance or fall. Be careful!
- Walking from heel to toe is not possible with high heels. Put your whole foot down carefully to avoid unwanted twisting of the foot.
- Do not wear these in slippery or wet conditions, there is no tread on these shoes.
What do I do now?
Why not take an inventory of what you have now, and donate or discard the shoes that are the worst offenders? If you have decided to eliminate high-heeled shoes from your wardrobe, do not do this all-of-a-sudden. Your Achilles tendon in your leg is most likely tight, you will be asking for more foot trouble in the short term. Better to reduce their use gradually and mix in some shoes using our shoe guidelines. If you want real comfort and great feet, take a look at our new Cluffy Lux Step insole, the premier product for sore feet. Our insole will help get you back to good foot health and eliminate the pain in your feet from improper walking and shoes.
Remember, you only have two feet to last a lifetime.