Heels are the main culprit in millions of foot and ankle complaints across the country, but women still wear the shoes with abandon. Whether you’ve noticed a constant pain in your foot or your bank account is dwindling as your shoe collection grows, understanding the true cost of high heels might be enough to make wearing your favorite shoes more of a treat than an everyday occurrence. Consider the following disadvantages and dangers.
1. Joint Pain
Unlike other types of shoes, heels lack any significant shock absorption. What’s more, wearing heels also stops your foot from naturally rotating as you walk, since they’re forced into a straight and unbending position. This causes the knee to absorb the brunt of every step, which can lead to severe joint pain and an exacerbation of arthritis symptoms, according to the American Association of Orthopaedic Surgeons. Your ankle also absorbs some of the shock as well, so don’t be surprised if a long day in heels leaves your joints feeling stiff and sore.
When you push your feet into too-tight shoes or shoes that force your feet into unnatural shapes (such as pointy-toe shoes), you create pressure on the sides of your feet and toes. Over time, the rubbing and pushing from your favorite heels can lead to a hardening of the skin. It may not be a big deal in the winter, but come summer, you might be too embarrassed to don your strappy sandals when your feet are riddled with callouses.
3. Shortened Achilles Tendon
This might be one of the more worrying side effects of wearing heels: According to Live Science, women who wear heels over a long period of their lives actually shorten their Achilles tendon. With the heel in the lifted position, heels can actually create a physiologically change in the muscles and tendons around the ankles. That means, when barefoot or wearing flats and shoes that cause the heel to reach the ground, the wearer can feel immense pain and stretching.
4. Lower Back Pain
Each year, I attend a hospital benefit where the dress code is formal. Wearing heels is a must, as is standing and visiting with other attendees for several hours. The following morning, my lower back is always in pain. Why? Heels actually cause your pelvis to push forward when you walk or stand, placing tremendous pressure on the lower back and causing lingering pain.
5. Lack of Cushion
When you wear heels, your entire body’s weight is placed on the ball of your foot and your heel is used for balance only. Surprisingly, this can cause a wearing away or pushing away of the natural padding you have on the ball of your foot. In fact, according to Elle, some plastic surgeons actually inject Botox into patients’ feet (they call it a “stiletto lift”) to add padding and make heels more comfortable. Otherwise, without extra padding on the ball of your foot, heels can become immensely uncomfortable, and even painful.
6. Falling and Sprained Ankles
When you wear flats, your weight is spread evenly between the ball of your foot and the heel, with little pressure on your ankle. Unfortunately, heels cause such an imbalance between the heel and the ball that the ankle is forced to become the fulcrum for your entire body. And, since ankles aren’t built to take that kind of pressure, falls and twisted or sprained ankles can be pretty common. It’s nearly impossible to perfectly balance, especially in very high heels, so any bump in the pavement can feel like a 10-foot wall when you’re trying to scale it in your favorite pumps.
7. Ingrown Toenails
Most heels have a pointy or almond-shaped toe, despite the fact that the end of your foot is actually more square. And it’s the biggest and littlest toes that take a lot of the pressure as they press against the sides and the end of the shoe.
High heels cause your feet to slide down and crush your toes, leading to ingrown toenails. Ingrown toenails occur when the side of your toenail starts growing into your flesh, and it can be seriously painful.
1.You spend too much time in them. You may love your favorite pair of high heels because they make your legs look super long, but they’re not for everyday wear. Log too many hours in high heels and you can develop chronic foot pain.
2. They’re making your feet ugly. No matter how close you are with your favorite heels, you’ll have to take them off eventually. And when you do you might find bunions, callouses and corns underneath, not to mention a puffy foot. Shoes that aren’t specifically designed for comfort do unsightly damage to feet that makes walking around in your bare feet embarrassing.
3. They hurt. Beauty does not have to equal pain. That stabbing pain in the balls of your feet may seem like a fair trade-off for your favorite pumps, but it could be a sign of permanent, damaging changes taking place in your feet. Plus, there’s no reason to suffer. Quality shoes offer the structure and support as well as beauty to save you from daily pain.
4. Foot problems can be reversed if you catch them early. The longer you suffer with achy, pinched feet, the more you’re changing the structure of your piggies. Switch to a more comfortable pair now and you won’t develop problems that may plague you for the rest of your life.
5. You’re permanently changing the way you walk. When you have a bunion, uncomfortably high heels actually move the bone on your big toe’s base joint. This change in the shape of your foot actually changes the way your foot moves to push you forward. Those changes can make switching to flats uncomfortable later in life.
6. You don’t want to have foot surgery. Teeter tottering on heels all day causes bunions. This irreversible bone damage requires surgery to straighten out. If you manage to avoid bunions you’re still not out of the woods. Hammertoes are another bone deformity caused by high heels. You’ll need surgery to fix them too.
7. You’ll never get those defined calves you’ve been working on. When you walk in flats or sensible heels, you use your calves to push you forward. But high heels push all of your weight forward on your tippy toes. When you’re tipping around up there your calf muscles don’t do any work. You can save hours in the gym by making a little change in your footwear.
8. You’re making permanent changes to your posture. When your heels push your feet forward the rest of your body has to compensate. The lower half of it sits forward to help you keep your balance. Then the top half of you leans back to even you out. Over the years, this pushing forward and leaning back changes the shape of your muscles and puts stress on areas that weren’t meant to be stressed out.
9. You’re getting older. Stilettos are child’s play. Literally. As you age, your feet lose the fatty deposits that make heels tolerable. And the fat that remains gets pushed forward towards the balls of your feet. You’re not just imagining that your favorite pair gets less comfortable year after year.
10. There are better heels out there. It’s not the 1990s anymore. Chunky heels are in. Look for a quality pair of shoes with padding on the insoles. Thick heels will keep you supported without putting too much strain on your feet and posture. If you already suffer from bunions or callouses opt for open-toed shoes. They’ll let your feet relax while you stay stylish.
Your heels may be fabulous but they could be ruining your feet. And no fashion is worth hobbling around in your old age. Especially when there is plenty of fashion out there that supports and nurtures your feet. Buy your favorite styles from a shoe source that you trust. Make the right footwear decisions and you won’t have to trade in fashionable footwear for functioning feet.