How High Heels are Affecting You from the Ground Up

They pull together your outfit perfectly; they make you taller and appear slimmer.  What’s not to love about a beautiful pair of high heels?  Of course, women the world over can attest to the most notable downside – discomfort.  Stand too long in a pair of heels and your feet will be throbbing soon enough.  But, this is far from the only problem.  Ask any chiropractor, and they can tell you exactly how that elevated heel height, unnatural foot positioning, and altered gait is impacting every other part of your body, and not for the better.

How High Heels Affect Your Feet

The most noticeable impact of heels occurs in the feet.  The higher a heel is, the greater the amount of pressure placed on the ball of the foot.  Whereas weight should be fairly evenly distributed throughout the foot, a 3-inch heel can increase the pressure at the front of the foot by as much as 76 percent.  Not only can this cause pain while the shoes are being worn, it can also lead to problems such as callouses, ingrown nails, and a painful condition known as Morton’s neuroma.

How High Heels Affect Your Legs

From ankle to hip, there is a lot of change that happens to your legs when you slip on a pair of heels.  Starting from the bottom, heels can actually shorten your Achilles tendon, which connects your ankle to the calf muscle.  This can cause stiffness, pain, and muscle spasms and is the reason you may find it difficult to walk normally immediately after removing your heels. 

Moving up, high heels also force the knee into a more forward position, misaligning your joints and increasing pressure.  Researchers have indicated that, over time, this change can lead to premature osteoarthritis of the knee in some women.

How High Heels Affect Your Hips

Just like the knees, hips are thrust forward in order to keep you in balance while walking in heels.  As the hips are involved with nearly every aspect of walking, as well as body alignment, strain here can affect you just about everywhere else.  In turn, you may experience pain in the outer hip area, inner thighs, lower back, and even neck as after extended heel wear.

How High Heels Affect Your Back

The spine’s distinct S-curve shape helps protect the vertebrae by acting as a shock absorber.  However, this shape is thrown out of whack as heels force the lower back to hyperextend (arch).  This can, of course, lead to temporary back pain, but it can also result in more bothersome spinal injuries such as:

  • Spondylolisthesis – Severe back pain resulting from a vertebrae that slips too far and places pressure on the nerves.
  • Foraminal Stenosis – In this condition, cervical disc space through which nerves run becomes compressed.  This compression can lead to a number of symptoms throughout the lower body such as pain, weakness, numbness, and spasms.
  • Sciatica – The sciatic nerve is the longest one in the entire body, running from the lower back, down the legs.  When this nerve is under pressure, the pain can radiate from the lumbar area, through the buttocks, and even down the leg.

The perfect pair of heels may be difficult to resist, and while there are occasions where they may be necessary, your health is far better served by steering clear of them as frequently as possible.  When heels must be worn, select a lower heel height, which can reduce many of the symptoms listed above, and remove them whenever possible to give your feet a break.

If you have spent years in heels and are beginning to feel the negative effects, contact SouthEast Chiropractic: The Motion Centers.  Our chiropractic physicians can help alleviate your painful symptoms by restoring proper alignment and can even help protect your spine from future injury as well.