The things we take pleasure in are not always aligned with what is best for our well-being. High heels serve as a prime example; they can inflict serious and painful damage to your feet, yet many women opt to wear them on a daily basis. If you’ve found it challenging to part with your high heel habit, it’s essential to understand what precisely happens to your feet when you wear these shoes.
The Attraction of High Heels
High heels hold a unique appeal for many people, and this appeal is not just about looks but also about the boost they provide in terms of confidence. Let’s explore the reasons why high heels continue to be popular:
- Aesthetics and Style: High heels are associated with an elegant and stylish appearance. They make legs look longer, create a flattering silhouette, and elevate the overall look. The added height can make an outfit seem more refined and sophisticated, making them a favorite among those who appreciate fashion.
- Confidence and Empowerment: High heels make the wearer feel more confident and empowered. The extra height can boost self-assuredness and a sense of control. This can be especially valuable in professional and social situations, where confidence matters.
- Better Posture: Wearing high heels encourages better posture. They compel the wearer to stand upright with straight shoulders and back. Improved posture not only enhances appearance but also contributes to self-assurance.
- Femininity and Sensuality: High heels are often seen as symbols of femininity and sensuality. They accentuate curves, create an alluring walk, and enhance attractiveness. Many people wear high heels to express their feminine side and feel more sensual.
- Completing an Outfit: High heels are often considered the finishing touch to an outfit. They can elevate a simple look to a polished one. The right pair of heels can significantly impact the overall impression of an outfit, making them a powerful fashion accessory.
- Social and Cultural Influence: High heels have been a fashion and cultural staple for centuries. They have been embraced and celebrated by artists, designers, and celebrities, shaping their enduring appeal. Social and cultural influences play a significant role in defining high heels as symbols of sophistication and allure.
The Unnatural Foot Position Caused by High Heels
Consider the natural foot position of humans, which is designed for walking heel-first, with the majority of body weight placed on the heels before shifting to the forefoot in a cyclical motion. High heels, however, completely disrupt this natural gait.
Research published in JAMA reveals that wearing heels compels you to exert an unnatural amount of pressure on your forefoot, essentially shifting the weight away from your heels. This effect becomes increasingly pronounced as you opt for higher heels. Over time, this can lead to the weakening of your heels and an excessive amount of stress on your forefeet.
Understanding the Physiological Impact of Wearing Heels
Thanks to modern medical technology, researchers and doctors can precisely analyze how the body functions when a woman wears high heels. High heels cause the abdomen to protrude forward and the buttocks to shift backward. While this may create an appealing visual effect, it disrupts the natural distribution of weight along your spine and places added pressure on your lower back.
Some reports even indicate that one vertebra can shift forward in front of another due to the use of high heels. This condition is extremely painful, and you run the risk of developing it when you wear heels.
Arguably, one of the most detrimental consequences of wearing heels is what they do to your legs. Due to the altered position of your feet, your calf muscles become significantly shorter when you wear high heels. This leads to shortened Achilles tendons. You may not feel the effects while wearing heels, but the discomfort becomes evident when you switch back to flats.
Walking barefoot or wearing flats again reverts your foot to maintaining a 90° angle with your leg. Consequently, your Achilles tendons endure a considerable amount of stress. This can result in tendon strain or even tears. You can rectify this damage by abstaining from heels and allowing your feet to readjust to flats, but it will take time.
Risks Associated with Wearing Heels
Regularly wearing high heels exposes you to various conditions and potential injuries. Some of the most common risks associated with high heel usage include:
- Strained Ankle Muscles: High heels can strain the muscles around your ankles, leading to discomfort and potential injuries in this area.
- Back Pain from Altered Balance: The forward shift in your center of gravity caused by high heels can result in back pain. It places increased stress on your lower back, potentially leading to discomfort or chronic pain.
- Weakened Achilles Tendons: Wearing high heels leads to shortened calf muscles and, in turn, shortened Achilles tendons. This can affect your ability to flex your feet naturally, which may lead to Achilles tendon strain or tears.
- Toe Numbness: The pressure exerted by high heels can cause numbness in your toes, making them feel tingly or uncomfortable.
- Permanent Nerve Damage in the Toes: Prolonged use of high heels can result in lasting nerve damage in your toes, potentially affecting sensation and mobility.
- Weakened Calf Muscles: High heels can cause your calf muscles to become shorter and less flexible, potentially leading to muscle weakness and discomfort, especially when returning to flat shoes.
You don’t necessarily have to eliminate high heels from your wardrobe entirely, especially if you adore wearing them for special occasions. However, it is highly advisable to consider wearing flats or going barefoot most of the time. This aligns with the natural state of your feet and can substantially enhance your overall health.
This Site Was Inspired By An Interest in Protecting the Environment
We had the privilege and joy of learning from Dr. Charlie Stine who instilled a love for the natural world through incredible field trips with the Johns Hopkins Odyssey Certificate program in Environmental Studies. At the time, the program was endorsed by the Maryland Department of Natural Resources. Sadly, after Dr. Stine retired, the program was phased out. We hope that we honor his legacy by shining a bright light on environmental issues and sharing good news about the success of various conservation programs when possible.
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