High Heels and Health

How high heels affect you and your health

We are often more concerned with fashion rather than function. We do not take into account the toll routinely wearing high heels will take on our body. The simple process of getting dressed in the morning has the potential to create significant musculoskeletal problems later in life.

A woman’s body will attempt to compensate for the off-kilter balance heels cause by flexing or forward bending the hips and spine. In order to maintain balance, the calf, hip, and back muscles become tense.  At the end of the day, this makes for excess muscle fatigue and strain. Over time, wearing high heels can also cause the calf muscles to cramp and bulge.


The normal s-curve shape of the back acts as a shock absorber, reducing stress on the vertebrae. Wearing high heels causes lumbar spine flattening and a posterior displacement of the head and thoracic spine. High heel shoes cause you to lean forward and the body’s response to that is to decrease the forward curve of your lower back to help keep you in line. Poor alignment may leads to muscle overuse and back pain.


A high heel shoe places an increased amount of pressure on your forefoot, causing you to adjust the rest of your body to maintain your balance. The lower part of your body leans forward, and to compensate for that, the upper part of your body must lean back to keep you balanced.


Daily high heel use over a number of years can actually lead to changes in your anatomy. Teetering on stilettos puts undue stress on the back and knees as the weight of the body shifts forward. Additionally, calve muscles can shorten and tendons may thicken. Spondylolisthesis, or the slippage of one vertebra forward over another, frequently occurs as a result of wearing high heels, especially in the lumbar region of the spine where the body’s weight is concentrated.


Foraminal stenosis is a spinal nerve condition that ca occur when anatomical abnormalities block or reduce space in one or more foramina. Foraminal Stenosis in the lower back can cause symptoms of shooting pains, in addition to numbness, tingling, muscle weakness, spasm, cramping, and pain that radiates through the buttocks and down the legs. Sciatica, caused by the compression of the sciatic nerve, is a term that is often associated with this particular set of lower body symptoms.


A heel’s height determines the weight carried by the footwear. As the heels get higher, the pressure increases on the forefoot, or ball of the foot.


  • Avoid wearing high heels for long periods of time
  • Stretch leg and back muscles before and after having them on
  • Try to set your limit to two inches
  • Buy shoes in the afternoon, when feet are at their largest
  • Don’t buy pointed toe shoes
  • Buy shoes with leather insoles to keep feet from slipping
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