Why High Heels Are Bad For You

by Maia Appleby

Sure, high heels make your legs look longer and more shapely, and if you get a good pair, they might even come close to feeling something like comfortable, but if you wear them frequently, you could be causing severe, permanent damage to your legs.

If “they’re painful” isn’t a good enough reason for you to kick the heel habit, here are three better ones.

  1. High heels shorten your leg muscles and cause muscle atrophy
    Researchers conducting a study published in the U.K.’s Journal of Experimental Biology measured the muscle fibers in the calves of heel-wearing and flat-wearing women. The women who regularly wore high heels, they found, had significantly shorter muscle fibers than those who didn’t. They atrributed this to an atrophying effect that the high heels had caused. Although the muscles remain the same size, each individual fiber shrinks, making your muscles lose a great deal of flexibility. They also had much stiffer, bulkier Achilles tendons. Many of the heel-wearers’ legs were altered so dramatically that they were unable to stand on the floor barefoot without reporting discomfort and a strain in their calf muscles.Forget about any of them being able to reach down and touch their toes.
  2. High heels are terrible for your ankles
    Walking in high heels requires much better balance than walking barefoot or in flat shoes. When you walk in high heels, you put a tremendous amount of stress on the smaller muscles in your feet and ankles. As if this weren’t bad enough, if, by chance, you misstep and your foot turns either inward or outward, you put yourself at a great risk of spraining an ankle.
  3. High heels can even cause osteoarthritis in your knees
    A team of Harvard University researchers found a link between the usage of high heels and knee osteoarthritis. They believe that wearing high heeled shoes on a regular basis causes the cartilage surrounding your knee to gradually deteriorate, leaving the joint virtually unsupported. Wider, chunkier heels, which may be slightly less stressful to your feet, are no better for your knees as the narrow, stiletto-style heels.

If you still insist on wearing high heels, you can do daily stretches to decrease the damage they’ve caused your legs. Try doing yoga each night, or simply sit on a mat with your legs straight out in front of you and slowly reach forward to touch your fingers to your toes. Exhale as you stretch, trying to reach a little further each time. Bend your toes upward toward you to keep your calf muscles and Achilles tendons flexible.

However, I must conclude with this: not wearing them at all is definitely best.


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