Photo credit: 123RF/Catalin Pop

Photo credit: 123RF/Catalin Pop

Many women love to wear high heels. Perhaps you’re one of those women who can’t go a day without wearing a pair of your favorite high heels. But high heels can affect the shape and functioning of your feet. Additionally, a recent study published in The International Journal of Clinical Practice has shown that high heels can have an impact on your ankle muscle strength and your overall balance.

When you wear high heels, especially with a tapered toe box, the shape of your feet can be affected. The force of your weight is pushed down onto your toes and metatarsal heads, causing them to become squished inside the tapered toe box. This action can lead to the formation of bunions and hammertoes. Additionally, research has shown that walking in heels can “alter the natural position of the foot-ankle complex, and thereby produce a chain reaction of (mostly negative) effects that travel up the lower limb at least as far as the spine.”

However, it wasn’t entirely understood until recently how wearing high heels could cause changes in the stability of women’s ankles over time. Researchers at Hanseo University in South Korea conducted a study among young women who were training to be airline attendants and are required to wear high heels for their job.

The results of their research was interesting. When they tested the women’s balance and the strength of their ankle muscles, they found that sophomores and juniors had greater muscle strength in their ankles compared to freshmen who were typically new to high-heel usage. The research suggests that as women wear high heels over time, their ankle muscles adapted to the stresses placed on them and increased in strength. Particularly, the muscles on the inside and outside of the ankle joint got stronger.

However, as the women continued to wear high heels and reached their senior year of training, the same muscles of these women were becoming weaker along the front and back of the ankle. And these senior women also exhibited dramatically worse balance compared to freshmen.

According to the researchers, the “ratio of strength between the muscles on the sides of the ankles and those at the front and back became increasingly unbalanced over years of wearing heels, contributing to ankle instability and balance problems.” Even though these muscles had been stronger for a while, they eventually exhibited a decline in muscle strength.

What should be worrisome to women who wear high heels is, when you have strength imbalances in the muscles around the ankle joint, this can cause an increased risk of injuries in other muscles like the hamstrings or upper leg.

While researchers are not saying you need to get rid of your high heels, they do recommend some things you can do to reduce ankle instability issues if you plan to continue wearing high heels.

  • Perform ankle strengthening exercises. 1) When standing barefoot, rise up onto your toes and then lower your feet back to the floor. Perform this exercise several times. 2) Stand on the edge of a stair. Slowly lower your heel over the edge. Return to the start position – your feet should be level with the stair. Perform this exercise several times.
  • Take off your high heels when sitting. Even when you’re sitting, if you’re wearing heels, the resting length of the muscles and tendons around your ankles can be impacted, causing destabilization of the joint and an increased risk of injury.
  • Don’t run in heels. Running in high heels can create a lot of pressure on your forefoot, which can compromise the biomechanics of your feet and gait as well as your balance.

How to Improve Stability and Reduce Foot Pain when Wearing High Heels

Photo credit: 123RF/fuzzbones

Photo credit: 123RF/fuzzbones

At the WalkEZStore, we recommend that women wear high heels that are no higher than 2 inches. Additionally, you need to make sure your shoes fit properly for the best performance.

To bolster stability when wearing high heels, you should make sure the pitch of the high heel is perpendicular to the ground. The more posterior the heel is positioned, the better the stability will be. Also look for high heels that have wider outsole like a platform high heel. Additionally, platforms typically have an inflexible forefoot, a firm heel counter and torsional stability, which will provide more stability when you’re walking.

If you suffer from painful foot conditions like bunions, hammertoes or metatarsalgia due to high heel usage, ezWalker® Performance Custom Orthotics can help relieve your pain by reducing the pressure, stress and strain on your feet. Plus our custom orthotics guide your feet into better alignment for greater stability and balance.

Learn more about these ultra thin, ¾ length custom orthotics by visiting the WalkEZStore.com. If you’re ready to increase your foot biomechanics and reduce your foot pain, order your ezWalker® Performance Custom Orthotics today by clicking this link.

Because … when your feet feel good, you feel good.®

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