- Chronic Pain & Wellness
- Chronic Pain & Wellness
Hazards of High Heels
As I’ve said in trainings and even on TV, “Sometimes I like wearing high heels. I won’t give up my Jimmy Choos, but I don’t want to pay the price of vanity.”
Research clearly shows that there are some seriously negative effects of wearing high heels daily. So whether you wear them every day or just for special occasions, there’s some cause and effect that you should consider if, like me, you are hell bent on not ditching your heels.
So first, the bad news:
There’s over a dozen types of foot issues that can arise from wearing high heels daily. The superficial corns, ingrown toenails, blisters, and aching feet may seem temporary, and once you take your shoes off you might think the damage can be reversed – but think again.
While you are wearing high heels, some more permanent issues are developing. First, have you ever seen a woman wearing heels that are either too high or just not fitting well and the way she walks looks a little off? Well, heels do change gait (walking patterns) and what’s called the ankle mortise.
The ankle complex (not just the ankle joint, but the subtalar joint) can become displaced. This changes how the ankle and the joints above it – like your knees and hips – move, which alters muscle length, strength, and ultimately decreases muscular timing, efficiency, control, and your overall balance.
This increases your risk of foot problems like bunions and neuromas as well as knee injury, back pain, ankle sprains, tendonitis, and even neck pain – all the way up the chain of your body, leading to chronic headaches.
If the muscles in your calves stay shortened for too long, when you put on your sneakers for that after-work workout, your muscles can fatigue too fast causing you to strain muscles and stress connective tissue and compress joints – again, ultimately misaligning your bones and increasing your risk of injury – when you aren’t wearing your heels.
If you engage in exercise, you actually have a higher risk of injury than if you just plopped down on the sofa at the end of the day. If you have your heels higher than your toes all day and then opt to do some explosive interval training, weight lifting, or running, going from heels to sneakers on the same day is a common cause of tendon tears and connective tissue damage like plantar fasciitis, which takes months if not years to heal.
I’ve heard the argument that wearing high heels strengthens a woman’s ankle muscles. Perhaps wearing heels gives your muscles a bit of a workout initially or if you wear them once in a while. But over time, the reverse occurs, leading to overall instability, exhausting the integrity and stability of your connective tissue and nervous systems. This causes vital joints in the hips and ankles to become neurologically weakened, thus the timing and efficiency of your movement declines.
But now, the good news:
I’m not going to tell you to wear sneakers with your cocktail dress at the holiday party. If I’m not going to stop, I’m not going to tell you to stop wearing them either. My husband will be glad to hear I’ll still sport a stiletto every so often with a short skirt.
So here are my top 7 MELT tips so you can wear your heels and decrease your risk of permanent damage and injury.
1) Before you put your heels on, try a quick MELT Mini Foot Treatment. The Mini Foot Treatment is a fast way to boost the tone of your connective tissue and improve balance and neurological control to your center of gravity. When you wear heels, your center of gravity is in a different place, so by restoring the tone of your fascia, you help aspects of your nervous system acquire their connection to your center of gravity. (I call this your Autopilot and it functions like a GPS.) The Mini Foot Treatment takes less than 10 minutes a day and you can do it at the office right at your desk, or while you brush your teeth or make coffee in the morning.
2) Don’t walk to work in heels or drive your car with heels on. Put your shoes in a bag and put them on once you get to the office. To be honest, no one will care anyway, or laugh at you, or even mention it. No one cares but you if you wear them to work or not.
3) When you sit at your desk, take your heels OFF. Again, no one cares that you take your shoes off. Put your feet flat on the floor, sit up straight, and try not to cross your legs while at your desk. Also, get up and stretch your arms up to the ceiling and take deep breaths 4 to 5 times every hour or so to improve blood flow and circulation, which will help your Autopilot sustain efficiency and control more effortlessly.
4) Try the Bunion Treatment and Foot Rinse from the MELT Hand and Foot Treatments DVD. This has been my secret weapon against the hereditary trait of bunions. You can do this while you sit at your desk as well.
5) Try the Lower Body Compression Sequence from the MELT Method 3-DVD set. Simple compression techniques using the MELT Soft Body Roller on your calves and upper legs can help your body in so many ways – it’s a real game changer overall.
6) Stretch your calves and strengthen your shin muscles (tibialis anterior) everyday if you wear heels. Restoring calf length and timing is key to keeping your knees and hips stable. Remember, when the back of your calf is in a shortened position, the muscles on the front side become overly long and weak. It’s a prime cause of low back pain too. If you aren’t MELTing, basic stretching and lower leg strength work is a good place to start. You can find lots of suggestions for basic strength work on the Internet if you want to just do that. But MELTing really works fast and helps restore balance quickly.
7) Keep your hips strong and balanced. The new MELT Performance DVD is coming out in early 2017 and the Lower Body Stability Sequence is a MUST for anyone who wears high heels or plays any sports. This is a missing link that quickly reintegrates hip stability so you can manage balance more effortlessly thus improving muscle control and timing overall.
About the author
Creator of the MELT Method®
Sue Hitzmann, MS, CST, NMT, is a nationally recognized somatic-movement educator and manual therapist. Her decades of practice, research, and study of anatomical science and alternative therapies... View Articles