“Your killer heels are killing much more than you think, said the American Osteopathic Association (AOA). “Those perfect pumps can create the perfect storm for permanent health problems. If you frequently wear high heels, you are setting yourself up for long-term issues.”
High Heels and Chronic Pain
Walking in those four-inch heels at work all day may make you feel like you can stand tall (literally!), but it’s how you feel later that might be even more important. And we’re not just talking about sore feet—that’s a given—and a range of serious foot and leg issues. It’s the damage those high heels could be doing to your back that’s perhaps most concerning.
Heels force the foot to slide forward, which can cause any number of tow and foot injuries. But it’s the redistribution of weight, which “causes your body to tilt forward,” that can start to create long-term back issues. “To compensate, you lean backwards and overarch your back, creating a posture that can strain your knees, hips, and lower back. The change to the position of your spine puts pressure on nerves in the back and can cause sciatica, a condition where nerves become trapped, triggering pain and numbness as far down as the feet,” according to the AOA.
The Telegraph reports that pain from wearing high heels can start after just one hour. At eight or 10 consecutive hours in those heels, you may have been able to mind-over-matter the pain away, but the consequences are harder to get rid of. They also said that “women risk permanent injury by wearing high heels which start causing pain just one hour and six minutes after they put them on. The higher the heel, the more they tilt your body forward and the more you have to lean back to compensate.” This can put your pelvis out of alignment and cause compression of the spine.
Even Glamour Magazine, whose job is typically to encourage you to wear sexy heels, can’t help but address the issue, saying, “Your shoes are probably wrecking your entire body.”
Turns out your shoes “can be a real pain in the neck, and the shoulders, and the knees: Injuries from wearing high heels have doubled since 2002, according to a new study from the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB),” Glamour also reported. “Yep, upwards of 19,000 women get hurt from their heels every year. And we’re not talking about blisters.” The study also found that “nearly two thirds of women wear shoes two inches or taller on a regular basis.” That’s a lot of potential injuries, not to mention chronic back pain.
Chronic back pain is, indeed, a danger of long-term wearing because “wearing high heels can shorten the muscles in your calves and in your back, leading to pain and muscle spasms,” the UAB study concluded.
So what can you do?
You could be like fashion designer and noted Louboutin wearer Victoria Beckham, who recently decided it was time to ditch the heels for flats. But if you’re not ready to take that step, scaling it back and making a few other key changes can help.
“If you’re looking to protect your feet, legs, and back from the unpleasant side effect and long-term issues associated with wearing high heels, you don’t have to give them up entirely,” said the AOA.
Try these tips:
- Choose more sensible heels—Lower heels or a chunky heel can help “spread the load more evenly” and provide more support than stilettos.
- Wear soft insoles—This will help reduce the impact.
- Get sized—You may need a smaller size shoe to make sure your foot doesn’t slide forward.
- Limit your wear—Trade off with a flatter shoe or lower heel, or save heels for days when you’ll be mostly sitting.
You may need treatment or even surgery. The good news for those suffering from chronic pain is advances in minimally invasive surgical techniques mean treating chronic back pain is easier than ever, with outpatient treatments, small incisions, and a quicker recovery time instead of a long hospital stay.