High Heels: Are they a Health Hazard?

imagescaho2jf7Diamonds may be a girl’s best friend but there is no doubt that shoes, especially high heels, are a close second. The perfect set of high heels can take an outfit from simple to fabulous in the blink of an eye. However what most heel lovers don’t know, is that high heels, when worn excessively and/or incorrectly, can be a hazard to their health.

The degree of physical damage that wearing heels can cause depends on a number of things including the height of the heel, the amount of time the heel in worn, and even the arching of your foot. A study conducted by the Journal of Applied Physiologysupports the notion that wearing high heels for long periods of time can eventually become a health hazard.

Researchers studied a total of 19 women over a two year period. Nine of the women wore two-inch heels for a minimum of 40 hours each week, while the other 10 women wore two-inch heels for no more than 10 hours each week.

After two years, the women who wore the heels for 40 hours per week experienced significant changes in the structure of their feet, posture, and walking ability. After further examination, the women were also found to have altered arches and shortened calf muscles. Shortened calf muscles often lead to enormous amounts of stress on the muscles which, overtime, can often lead to severe discomfort and increased risk of permanent injury.

On the other hand, the women who wore heels for 10 hours per week or less, experienced no obvious changes or injuries. This suggest that wearing heels too frequently (even if they are two inches or less), can potentially lead to physical damage. In addition to the frequency in which women wear heels, the height of the heels, the quality of the shoe, and the activities performed while wearing the heels can also making wearing heels are hazardous habit.

Although the study was performed on women who wore the heels for a period of two years, it is important to remember that certain injuries associated with wearing high heels can occur within a very short time period. Other injuries that can occur from the improper wearing of high heels include the following:

·Sprained ankles


·Ingrown toenails

·Nerve tissue damage

·Back pain

·Joint pain

The good news for high heel lovers is that there ways to wear heels properly and in a way that can decrease risk of damage or injury. The first rule of thumb is to choose comfort over style. Those six inch heels may go really well with your signature little black dress, however it comes with a huge risk. Opting for the more comfortable heel over the more stylish one may be the best option, and your feet will thank you for it later. Here are a few more guidelines to follow when wearing heels:

    1. Moderation is the key. Don’t wear high heels for more than a few hours at a time.
    2. Stay away from ill-fitting shoes. Don’t wear heels that are too big or too small.
    3. Take a break. Don’t over-do it. If your feet start to ache, switch out the heels for a pair of flats.

Following the guidelines listed above may help with the prevention of injuries associated with wearing high heels. However, if you do experience any damage or physical discomfort, RPI has a variety of physical therapy methods aimed at aiding these injuries. Contact one of our offices today.