Since the invention of footwear, the height of a shoe heel has gone up and down in step with fashion. From simple wedges to sky-high stilettos, high heels place a significant amount of stress on the bones and tissues in the feet and ankles. The more you wear your favorite heels, the more likely it is that you will suffer chronic foot pain or a sudden ankle injury.
Common Injuries From High-Heeled Shoes
Your feet are some of the hardest-working parts of your body. It takes 52 bones and hundreds of ligaments, tendons, and muscles to support your weight and keep you moving every day. The higher the heels on your shoes, the more you affect your body’s natural ability to stand, walk, or run.
High heels have caused both recurring conditions and traumatic foot problems, including:
- Heel pain. High heels can cause heel pain in many different ways, including a “pump bump” (bony growth) from pressure on the back of the heel and plantar fasciitis from uneven weight distribution.
- Bunions. Any shoes with a narrow toe box can cause bunions, but shoes with pointed toes and high heels squeeze the tips of the toes together while compressing them with your full body weight. Like all high heels, shoes with pointed toes should be worn as little as possible—and only for short periods.
- Toe deformities. Without enough room to wiggle your toes, you may suffer hammertoes, corns, calluses, and ingrown toenails. The nerves in your feet could also become compressed and swollen, developing into neuromas.
- Forefoot injuries. High heels significantly reduce the surface area of your footfalls, with as little as 25% of your foot making contact with the ground. All of your weight is concentrated at the front of the foot instead of the back, increasing the risk of strained calf muscles, ankle joint pain, and tiny stress fractures that cause arthritis later in life.
- Arch strain. By giving the appearance of artificially high arches, high heels can shorten the Achilles tendon and make it extremely painful for the wearer to walk or stand on bare feet.
- Sprained ankles. Your feet are designed to absorb impact by striking the ground heel first and rolling toward the balls of the feet to push off the ground. Heels change the mechanics of your walk, throw off your balance, limit your range of motion, and can potentially make your feet go numb—a perfect storm for twisting or breaking your ankle.
- Secondary injuries. People often make adjustments in their gait (such as taking the weight off of one foot) to alleviate pressure on a sore area. Over time, these adjustments place undue stress on their hips, knees, and back—and can permanently affect how they walk.
How to Correct the Pain and Discomfort High Heels Cause
Even though high heels are not optimal footwear, you may not have to stop wearing them altogether. When it comes to high heels, just remember that less is more: the less height (under two inches), less time spent wearing and walking in heels, and less distortion to the foot (wearing wedges or platforms), the better.
Unfortunately, many people choose the wrong size shoe, compounding the other dangers of a high heel. A pair of heels that are too big will allow your foot to slide forward when walking and crush your toes, while a tight pair is likely to cause blisters before the end of the night.
If you are suffering pain in your feet or are tired of living with an unsightly bunion deformity, our podiatry team can examine your feet and determine the best way to correct your condition. We always start with non-invasive methods to restore mobility but can advise you on surgical options if your injury is severe. Contact us today by calling (208) 731-6321 or request an appointment online in our Twin Falls or Burley offices.