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The Harmful High Heels

Aditi Chopra
Aug. 26, 2010

A psychologist with an interest in writing. I am presently working as a counsellor in an NGO for street children. With an experience in stress counselling and psychological testing of children, my field of interest is marriage and family counselling.

High heels or the flat flip flops? Recently, the flip flop slippers seem to have become the latest trend. All girls and women, whatever their age group or however tall or short one is, these are a favourite. However, official meetings, weddings, parties and any such formal occasions bring out our very special high heels. No matter what the fashion is, high heels will always be admired and have an appeal. Lot of people believe that a pair of high heels complete the formal look and make a good impression. The discomfort and the painful after-effects do not seem to matter when one is appreciated for wearing those high heels. Even though, these effects can become severe and long lasting. Let us shed some light on these risky consequences.

The most affected by the impact of high heels are the calf muscles and veins. Since the stilettos tend to squeeze your feet, it causes a compression on the bones and pressure on the veins. A condition called varicose veins can develop where the veins on the calves swell out. A recent study shows that heels can cause joint degeneration. It proves the increased likelihood of the occurrence of knee osteoarthritis. This is a condition of the knee where the cartilage and the bone degenerates, causing severe pain, stiffness and tenderness of the joint. It distorts the gait of a person. The study revealed that the compression on some portions of the knee tends to enlarge a lot with heels. This was the triggering factor for osteoarthritis in the knee.

The entire body posture is also affected, causing the lower back and chest to push in and the hips to protrude outwards, putting maximum strain on the lower back. The shape of the spine changes when you wear those wedges or pumps, thus making it distorted. Since the positions of the joints keep on changing on wearing heels, it affects them severely, particularly the ankle and knee joints.

Some regular heel wearers complain that they are so used to wearing heels that they do not feel comfortable wearing flats. Similarly, people who wear no heels everyday find it very uncomfortable to wear them for more than a few hours.

A lot of research shows that wearing stilettos or wedges everyday makes the calf muscles shorter as compared to those who do not wear them often. Also, the tendon that connects the calf muscles to the heel was relatively rigid and thicker for heel wearers. Thus, the foot adjusts itself according to the shape and height of the heels. Unfortunately, even if the foot muscles adapt themselves, they cause a perpetual ache in the feet. Very few women complain about such a pain, as they get used to it. Some who do, use home remedies and massage their feet with ointments and oils. Some stretching exercises for the foot can also help.

Another method is to remove your high heels every hour and give them some rest by flexing the toes and massaging the calf muscles. Though, some studies give contrary views that people who wear heels almost every day should not take them off for a while and wear them again, as this can increase the pressure on the foot and also the pain. One can always try different methods and see what suits them best.

Besides the above mentioned consequences, heels also change the way we walk, for instance it makes you walk slowly and reduces the length of your steps, due to so much strain on the entire foot. The higher the heels, the greater are these risks. Of course, another risk is of falling; which can sprain your ankle and cause all types of injuries to your body, as can be learnt by the recent example of Lady Gaga tripping due to her exceptionally high block heels. However fine and classy a style statement the high heels may be, and the various records that are created for wearing the highest heels, the thickest heels, for the longest time, and so on, it does leave a permanent mark not only in the archives but also on your feet.   

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