The Verdict is In: High Heels Put Your Feet at Risk

In another classic case of science-proving-stuff-that-you-knew-all-along, a medical research team out of South Korea found that in the long-term, wearing high heels can put your feet at risk of injury.

high-heels-and-foot-injuriesWhat woman can resist a stunning pair of heels? Not many of us, apparently: almost 8 in 10 women say they wear them pretty much every day, even though they start hurting the feet after about an hour.

And yet, foot and ankle specialists warn against wearing them too often, or even at all. Heels force the foot into an unnatural position, where the toes squeeze together at the bottom of the incline at the front, and the heel teeters on an increasingly high wedge or stiletto. They offer little to no support through the foot and force the wearer to front-load her weight in order to walk.

The study comes at the heels of startling news. Recently, the Journal of Foot and Ankle Surgery reported a staggering increase in high-heel related sprains, with around 7,000 in 2002 to a little over 14,000 in 2012. We’re not sure exactly why there’s been such a dramatic increase, but we hope we can provide you with some valuable insights to help you avoid an ankle injury in your future.

What’s the Risk of Wearing Heels?

x-ray+of+a+foot+in+high+heelsHeels, especially with pointy toes, increase your chances of developing a bunion, among other painful and unhealthy structural conditions. But new research shows that long term wear can also increase your chances spraining your ankle.

Think wearing tall heels strengthens your ankle muscles? Think again.

“While wearing high-heeled shoes appeared to strengthen ankle muscles at first, prolonged use eventually caused an imbalance, which is a crucial predictor of ankle injury.”

Foot and ankle specialists have long studied the effect of high heels on wearers’ feet, but because it’s difficult to design a study like this over such an extended period of time, they’ve had difficulty pinning the blame for conditions such as arthritis on specific footwear.

However, this new study shows that wearing 4 inch heels more than three times per week for at least four years weakens some functional ankle muscles while strengthening others, leading to a dangerous imbalance which may result in a sprain.

What Can I Do to Lower My Risk of Injury?

If you must wear heels, do your feet a favor and strength train your ankles. Dr. Yong-Seok Jee advises toe tapping and heel raises, as well as walking on the heels of the feet each day to help balance your ankle muscles. These exercises are so easy, you can even do them while on break at work!

You can support your ankles by choosing shoes with thicker heels, like wedges. Keep your heels shorter, under 1.5 cm, and pick up a pair of supportive insoles at the pharmacy to lower the impact on your joints.

Of course, we also recommend wearing heels less often. Wear them at most three days per week, and alternate with something more comfy.

The gods of fashion are cruel and demanding. When will flats be in style again?

University Foot and Ankle Institute has 9 state-of-the-art locations throughout Southern California. Our physicians have decades of combined experience and are nationally recognized experts in the treatment of foot and ankle conditions. If you would like to schedule a consultation, please call us at (877) 989-9110 or visit us at www.footankleinstitute.com.

The UFAI Education Team

The UFAI Education Team

For almost fifteen years, University Foot and Ankle Institute and their nationally recognized physicians have been providing the most technologically advanced medical care for the foot and ankle with the highest success rates in the country.

As a teaching institution, University Foot and Ankle Institute’s Fellowship Program is among the most advanced in the nation.

We at UFAI are driven to get our patients back to their normal activities with the highest level of function, in the least amount of time, using the least invasive treatments possible. From start to finish, we are with you every step of the way.

The UFAI Education Team works to help empower our patients and website visitors with the most up-to-date information about foot and ankle conditions, treatment options, recovery and injury prevention. Our goal is to pass on truly useful information to our readers.

We hope you enjoy our work and find it of value. Please let us know!
The UFAI Education Team

2 comments

  1. What height of heel do you recommend for patients with restricted ankle dorsiflexion?

    • University Foot & Ankle Institute Staff

      Greetings,

      Good question! The absolute maximum is one-half of an inch, though we highly recommend that our patients try their darnedest to not go above a quarter of an inch.

      I hope this helps!

      Bob

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

Over 200,000 happy UFAI patients and growing
  • Yelp
    I found Dr. Bob  in 2004 when my bunions were bothering me.  I had been diagnosed with knee problems 3 years earlier, but did not know the problems were related.  My knee doctor told me to come back for a knee replace...
    Janet P.
  • CustomerSure
    Would not go anywhere else.
    Stacy B.
  • CustomerSure
    You all are very good at your job. So glad I am going here.
    Helena O.
  • Yelp
    I am 4 weeks post surgery now and just got my cast off today. Dr. Franson is the BEST foot specialist I have ever been to. He is extremely kind, he's caring and compassionate. He truly cares about his patients and has...
    Kathleen C.
  • Yelp
    My toes are so happy, they're crying "tee-hee-hee all the way home" thanks to Dr. Gary Briskin.  He's perfect!  He solved a problem I've had for a long, long time.  For a few years, I've had to wear spongy "toe guards...
    J.D.
  • Yelp
    Smashed a toe pretty good and had a toenail going in the wrong way. I called the doctors office. They took my California Care insurance no problem. Despite a very busy lobby, staff arranged to sneak me in between pati...
    SurfWithT
  • CustomerSure
    Great staff who put up with my questions and bad jokes. Hope I will not have to return, but if I do have foot problems again, I will go back to these folks.
    Eric F.
  • Yelp
    I had foot surgery here in November 2014 with Dr. Baravarian and as far as surgeries go, it was a pleasant experience. The staff is incredibly helpful and nice and Dr. Baravarian was great! I was given very thorough p...
    Akela C.
  • Angies List
    He is very nice. He is really good with teens who don’t want to wear their orthotics. He is smart and helpful. He really was good at working with my daughter.
    Anonymous
  • Facebook
    Dr. Baravarian got me back running when no other Dr. could. I can't thank him enough! Everyone in the office is so nice, I highly recommend them!
    Christie D.
Same Day Appointments
Now Available!

Or call 877-989-9110

24 hours a day, 7 days a week