High heels: risks for my joints’ health

High-heeled shoes are part of the daily life of many women, however, it is almost unknown how raising the heel’s height causes drastic changes in the entire body structure, predisposing those who wear them to musculoskeletal disorders and joint pain.

When wearing heels, the weight of the body is transferred to the front part of the foot, where a certain percentage of weight is placed as the height of the heel increases.  Under normal conditions (without shoes) the front part of the foot (metatarsus) supports 43% of the body weight with each step, while the rear part of the foot supports 57% of the remaining body weight.

These are the variations when wearing heels:

  • With a 4-centimeter high heel, the back supports 43% of the weight while the front supports 57% of the body weight.
  • The 6-centimeter heel distributes 75% to the front of the foot, leaving only 25% for the heel area.
  • If the heel of the shoe is 10 centimeters or higher, almost all of the weight is placed on the front of the foot.

The main alterations due to the use of high heels are reflected in:

  • Spine: Affects posture as heels push the body’s center of gravity forward, causing misalignment of the hips and spine.
  • Knees: Altered posture while walking in high heels causes excessive pressure within the knee, a common place for long-term osteoarthritis.
  • Calf: The calf muscles suffer two effects, on the one hand they remain tense and in constant contraction to support the pointe position and on the other hand they cause loss of elasticity of the muscle fibers, which causes calves contracture and pain.
  • Foot. The pressure exerted on the front part of the foot causes pain in the front bones (metatarsalgia) which leads to calluses. In addition, that same pressure compresses the tissues through which the foot nerves pass, causing inflammation and intense pain.

Recommendations

Daily and excessive use of high heels is not recommended.

The maximum acceptable height of a heel without having great bodily repercussions is 4 cm. If it’s hard for you to give up heels, try alternating them with lower-heeled shoes. Platform shoes or wedges are a good option.

Low-heeled or flat shoes are also not recommended. A healthy heel height of 2 cm is recommended.

See your doctor in case of any doubt or discomfort.