The phrase “well-heeled”, now used to describe a person who’s expensively and tastefully dressed, comes from the court of Mary the First of England in the 16th century. It is in that century that the aristocracies in Western Europe, both men and women, began sporting high heeled shoes. These were in fact borrowed from hunters’ gear, who need shoes that weren’t flat so they wouldn’t slip in the stirrups of their horses when they stood up to shoot.
While until the 18th century heels were considered metrosexual and worn by both men and women, men started to excise all non-functional items from their garments. The trend was opposite among women. Corsets, bustles, and high heels: all were in high currency during the 18th and subsequent centuries. While corsets are not taking the wind out of any woman’s lungs right now, about 72 percent of women still report wearing high heels at some point in their lives. That makes it a wardrobe staple.
That high heeled shoes continue to be a staple is not surprising. They not only add height, but they accentuate legs and change the wearer’s posture, making them walk taller and straighter. But at what cost? 42 percent of women have said they would wear high heeled shoes despite the discomfort they cause. But discomfort is just the tip of the iceberg. If recent studies are to be believed, it is time women give up the temporary glamour that high heels bring in favour of avoiding long term muscular and skeletal problems. Here are top four reasons you should not wear high heels and protect your long term health.
High Heels Weaken the Bones and Tendons of Your Legs
With high heels, by definition, it is style before function. They put the body out of its proper alignment. They raise your the heels of the feet high and hence the toes and the ball of your feet take a lot more weight and wear. The bones in the feet are so stressed out that hairline fractures in toes are prevalent.
Heels also tighten and stretch the tendons around the ankle and calves, especially the Achilles’ tendon. This causes pain, but also affects the ankle’s range of motion. This too can result in sprains and fractures.
High Heels Increase the Incidence of Ankle Sprains
All high heels increase the risk of ankle sprains, especially a kind of sprain called a ‘lateral sprain’. A lateral sprain happens when when the foot, because of the uneven and unnatural distribution of pressure, rolls outwards and the wearer trips. This rolling is very common when wearing heels. A sprained ankle is painful and needs rehabilitation through physiotherapy. Frequent sprains can indicate high amounts of stress on the ankles, a harbinger of osteoarthritis. Flats and low heels (1 to 1.5 inches) do not change the gait abnormally, and hence foot does not roll outwards.
Also very skinny heels like stilettos make tripping much more probable than wider heels like wedges. If you must wear heels, choose wedges or platforms. But these are not so benign in the longer run either.
High Heels Just Do Not Have Enough Room for the Feet
Again, heels are the (extremely expensive) commodification of form over function. Most of the heels do not have a large enough toe box i.e., no space for your toes. This is usually to give a sleeker look to the shoe, but also because the shoe cannot functionally withstand a lot of bulk anywhere. Also that part of the shoe is very flat, inflexible, and most often pointed. This structure means that your toes are uncomfortably squeezed in, resulting in blisters, bunions (a painful bump at the base of the big toe from the foot being in an unnatural position), and hammertoes (i..e, a toe that is permanently bent forwards). Be thankful we didn’t add any pictures.
A hammertoe is extremely painful, and it can alleviated only by a surgery. So stick to flats with a lot of support, like sandals with some heft to them or sneakers with some body and arch support.
Even ballet shoes offer no arch support, and oftentimes are themselves too snug. If you have to wear closed shoes, choose ones with a round toe box, not a pointy one.
Heels Adversely Affect the Spine
Depending on their construction, studies have demonstrated high heels to affect the lay of your spine. They alter the natural alignment of the spine. Frequent disruption of this alignment places uneven wear and tear on your vertebral discs, joints, and back ligaments. Shorter durations of wear show that they affect the lumbar spine and pelvis. Wearing them for a long time (more than 3 hours a day) can cause the spine to become hyperlordotic (a condition where the spine is too arched to the point of pain and spasms).
So when buying shoes think for your feet, your spine, and your health. Not just for your wardrobe.