High heels are a staple item in any woman’s wardrobe. But regardless of how good they look or make you feel, they can have negative health implications.

From having an impact on your posture to creating potential long lasting foot problems, choosing to wear high heels shouldn’t be a decision taken lightly. The type and size of heel, the shape of your foot and amount of time you’ll be wearing the shoes all need to be taken into consideration.

To increase awareness of the impact of wearing high heels, we’ve taken a look at the health risks you could be subject to and offer tips on how to wear them healthily.

How can high heels affect your body?

Your feet act as the shock absorbers for your whole body, protecting your bones from the sheer amount of force it’s subject to. So, once you’ve shoe-horned them into a pair of high heels, all the force is being applied to the balls of your feet and your toes. And the higher the heel, the bigger the impact – Women’s Health magazine report that a four-inch stiletto can increase the pressure on the front of your foot by upwards of 30 per cent.1 

Achilles and ankles
As well as the pressure on your feet, wearing high heels also brings health risks to your ankles and Achilles tendons. This form of footwear can leave your ankles with restricted movement when walking, forcing the muscles to move in an unnatural way.2 This restricted movement, partnered with the inclined pressure on your feet can also have a straining impact on your Achilles, mimicking the motion of walking on a ramp.

Wearing high heels causes a flattening in the lumbar of the spine and can damage your posture, especially between your head and thoracic spine (the stretch of spine located in the chest and rib area).3 This is due to the high heels forcing you to lean forward more, which reduces spinal alignment and leads to muscular overuse.

In your lower back, you may also be subject to symptoms of foraminal stenosis, a spinal nerve condition which can cause shooting pains, muscle weakness and spasms. Sciatica is another common health problem from wearing high heels.4

How to wear high heels healthily

Although wearing high heels can have an adverse impact on your health, it doesn’t mean you should never wear them. Instead, there are best practices you should follow to ensure you’re not only looking good, but also feeling good.

Change the height of your heels
Don’t feel like you have to wear the highest heel possible just to match the catwalk styles. Instead, opt for a more manageable size, and ensure you keep swapping between different heights if you wear high heels regularly.

Dr Emily Splichal, a podiatrist, recommends never exceeding a three-inch heel, as anything higher than this will begin to place additional stress onto your joints. If you are going taller, she also recommends taking a spare pair of flat shoes to change into and take the strain off.

Wear them for shorter periods of time
It may seem an obvious piece of advice but limiting the length of time you’ll be wearing your shoes is a significant factor in wearing high heels healthily. If you wear them for a prolonged period of time, the force your joints are exposed to can have a negative impact on your body, and after a while it will take its toll. Your muscles have to work harder which causes fatigue, so reduce the periods when you’re wearing them. 

Opt for a wider toe
A pointed-toe shoe can cause bunions, calluses, hammertoes and neuroma (a condition where you feel a burning, tingling or numbness in the toes), as well as leading to tightening and shortening of the Achilles.5

Rather than the classic pointed-toe high heel, opt for a wider-toed design to allow room for your toes and feet to have an extra bit of wiggle room. The Spine Health Institute also suggests that when buying your high heels, try them on in the afternoon, as this is when your feet are at their largest.

Add in footpads
Placing a foam or gel footpad can ease the stress being placed upon your feet and give you that extra bit of support you’ll need when wearing them. They’ll help keep your feet secured in place and offer a sturdier base to walk on.

If you’ve tried the above techniques and still are suffering when wearing heeled shoes, it may be time to seek medical advice. With a cash plan from Sovereign Health Care, you can claim money back towards visits to the chiropodist or podiatrist, chiropractor, physiotherapist and much more. To find out more, click here.

1 Women’s Health https://www.womenshealthmag.com/health/a19922532/high-heels/
2 Medical Daily https://www.medicaldaily.com/high-heels-causing-more-ankle-and-foot-injuries-particularly-among-women-their-20s-334754
3 Spine Health Institute http://www.thespinehealthinstitute.com/news-room/health-blog/how-high-heels-affect-your-body
4 Spine-health https://www.spine-health.com/blog/2-common-mistakes-provoke-sciatica-symptoms
5 Health.com http://www.health.com/mind-body/what-high-heels-are-really-doing-to-your-body

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