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Hell on Heels: The High Heel Survival Guide

Hell on Heels: The High Heel Survival Guide

By Geoff Robison | In Fitness | on October 4, 2017

Hell on High Heels: The Survival Guide

For either the workplace or weekends, high heels have become a staple of many a shoe arsenal. Fashionable and capable of adding the perfect touch to any outfit, heels can be a bold and powerful statement. But what about the hidden health risks of heels? Do heels hold the foot in an unnatural position? What effect can wearing heels have on your fitness goals? Here is how to survive high heels and the facts you need to know.



Aside from the annoying end of the day or night foot pain, it is undeniable that wearing high heels can cause more serious foot and lower leg problems. Over time, consistent wearing of high heels has been associated with dangerous changes in body composition. Shortened calves and over burdened knees are just some of the alarming side effects of over wearing your favorite pair. Most heels also force the most of your bodyweight onto your forefoot, an area not built to hold such a large load. As a result, metatarsal injuries, painful bunions, and other foot problems can quickly become serious health issues over time.


Not Just the Feet

While the risks of heels to foot and leg health may be somewhat well-known, heels can also cause serious damage to other parts of your body. Basically, the elevation of heels forces your body into an unnatural posture. While this extremely forward leaning position is popularized as a fashionable “look,” it also places a serious strain on your neck and spine. According to the Southeastern Spine Institute, some of the back problems associated with high heels include:

  • Scoliosis or curvature of the spine
  • Lower back pain
  • Sciatica or pinched nerves
  • Muscle spasms

Under normal and flat conditions, your spine has a gentle curve resembling the letter s. The heightened posture caused by heels forces this “s” shape out of alignment and disrupts the natural symmetry between your hips and lower back. More seriously, it is this misalignment that can present issues of pain and recurring injury.


A Danger to Fitness

It’s easy to see how the foot, leg, and back risks of high heels could have a serious effect on fitness. Torn or pinched back muscles, sore feet, and weakened tendons can all present rude interruptions to your workout regimen. Even worse, changing from heels to workout shoes can be a tough adjustment. One useful tip to alleviate the transition from high heels to high reps comes from the experts at Runner’s World who recommend targeting the muscles most fatigued by heels before your workout. Using a foam roller and employing some stretches will help release the tension built up after wearing heels for an extended period.



Heel lovers, don’t despair! The potential health risks associated with high heels are not necessarily cause for abandoning them altogether. You can still enjoy your favorite outfit with your favorite pair of heels if you use discretion about when and for how long you wear them. Here is a short list of useful tips for wearing heels responsibly from The American Orthopedic Food and Ankle Society:

  • Consider a lower heel height – the higher the heel, the more pressure on the ball of the foot
  • Consider a wider toe box – the more pointed the toe of the shoe, the more crowded the toes will become, and as a result the more pressure on the ball of the foot
  • Consider using high heels for only a limited amount of time – the more time in high heels, the more pressure on the bones of the feet and the more likely a stress fracture is to occur 


Fit for Fitness

Understanding the risks of high heels and the right way to wear them is important. Aches and pains are serious roadblocks on the path to better health but are ultimately easily avoidable. For more health tips and expert advice, contact a qualified personal trainer today.


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