Are high heels unhealthy?

The next time you plan on wearing heels for your rendezvous, think twice. Doctors claim that teetering around in heels for longer than 20 minutes poses significant health problems for your body. 

They're tall, they're gorgeous, and they're a necessity. Thanks to celebrities, high heels have been appropriated for everyday wear.

No longer are they reserved for special occasions. Rather, with shows like Sex and the City and Gossip Girl, the leading ladies make it seem natural to romp around town in high heels for the most trivial duties.

Photo courtesy of Lovelylish, Grazia Daily, and Frillr

If you have an affinity for heels, be aware of some of the potential impacts that they may pose for your health.

According to Dr. Casey Kerrigan, rehabilitation physician and biomechanic expert, shoes serve as a major factor in placing women at risk for knee osteoarthritis (twice as high as men) - a condition in which "joint cartilage and surrounding bone progressively degrade from wear and tear."

That said, wearing heels places "abnormal stress on both the front and back of the knee."

Photo courtesy of The Daily Mail

Immediate problems include sprained and broken ankles which result from rolling over on heels.

Knee osteoarthritis, however, starts to develop after decades of wearing high heels. 

Irrespective of the type of heel that is worn, the impact lies mainly in how it changes the angle of the foot.

This poses dangers for women as it makes us walk in a way that adds unneeded strain and stress on our knee joints.

Consultant podiatric surgeon Mike O'Neill, further explains:

"High heels make you raise your heel and as soon as you do that your centre of gravity is pushed forward."

Photo courtesy of The Daily Mail

"What happens then is you bend your lower back to compensate for this and that changes the position of your spine, putting pressure on nerves in the back."

This results in sciatica, a condition that is caused by pressure on the sciatic nerves, which runs in the lower spine and travels down the back of the legs. 

Pain, weakness, numbness or a tingling feeling are common symptoms experienced in the affected leg.

Not only do heels result in damaging effects to your legs, but according to UK health and fitness expert Dax Moy, heels can possibly lead to the potential risk of infertility.

"When you wear high-heels, the pressure on the front of the foot causes you to compensate by excessive forward tilting of the pelvis.

"If left unchecked, this can lead to menstrual dysfunction and increases in period pains as well as affecting the ability to conceive."

Damaging effects of heels:

Photo courtesy of Daily Mail


Photo courtesy of The Daily Mail

For teenagers, the risk is considered to be significantly high. This is attributed to the fact that some begin wearing heels before their bodies are fully developed. 

Photo courtesy of Daily Mail (Suri Cruise age 4)

Risks of feet damage and arthritis are among some of the factors that result.

Lower back pain is another concern, according to Sammy Margo of the Chartered Society of Physiotherapy:

"They have to arch their lower back more. This can cause strains in their back which is a potential problem for their growth and development."

With many factors and dangers associated with wearing high heels, there are a few ways to minimise the health risks related to it. 

Placing insoles inside your heels will lessen the impact that it places on your knee.

Comfort is another important, yet obvious factor. Heels that fit properly prevents your feet from sliding forward, which eliminates unnecessary pressure on your toes. 

Wearing them around the house for a few hours is a great way to test this out, according to O'Neill.

This gives your feet a chance to get used to them. Especially if you'll be wearing them for an extended period of time.

Further, it is suggested that women should not wear or stand in heels for longer than 20 minutes (impossible, it seems, for every fashionista out there).

Though this isn't a gesture to make women swear off heels completely, it certainly raises important facts. 

If you know you'll be wearing heels throughout the day (though according to doctors, this is pushing it), pack a pair of comfortable shoes - Dr. Scholl's fast flats are a practical option. 

Be aware of the effects that it may pose for your health - not just for your feet but for your entire body.

Photo courtesy of WA Today


Most importantly, wear with caution.

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