Phoenix Physical Therapy Expert Explains the Hazards of High Heels

Jan 27, 2016

Jeff Moyer

by Jeff Moyer
PT, MSPT, ATC, CSCS Biltmore Location

Phoenix physical therapy provider Foothills Sports Medicine Physical Therapy is dedicated to bringing high quality, hands-on care to people across Arizona. We offer a free assessment of your therapy needs with one of our certified staff, which you can schedule online here. For more information about physical therapy techniques and advice, visit our blog.
Jeff Moyer, MPT, ATC, CSCS, is an experienced Phoenix physical therapist. He specializes in sports medicine and orthopedic rehabilitation, and has helped patients of all ages and abilities recover from injury. He is here today to discuss a surprising, albeit common source of injury to women – their shoes.
Every year, millions of women put themselves at risk – probably without realizing it — by wearing high-heeled shoes. This simple elevation of the heel causes a chain reaction from the toes to the neck that can lead to problems throughout the body, including shortened muscles, poor posture, and even chronic pain.
What Damage Does It Actually Cause?

  1. Your spine is S-shaped and acts as a natural shock absorber to reduce stress on the vertebrae. Wearing high heels makes the back curve too much (into a state called hyperlordosis), which decreases stability of the trunk. Less core muscle activation and stability through the lower back and hip region puts you at a much higher risk of joint, disk, and nerve problems – all of which can lead to serious pain.
  2. Wearing heels transfers more weight to the forefoot, rather than evenly distributing it. A 1-inch heel increases pressure on the forefoot by 22%, 2 inches by 57%, and 3 inches a staggering 76%! This crams the toes into a small toe box, and can cause ingrown toenails, pinched nerves, bunions, and several other painful problems on the bottom of the foot.
  3. Wearing heels forces your ankles to bend forward, which could restrict circulation in your lower limbs. If you wear high heels often, this could eventually cause spider veins.
  4. Over time, high heel wearers can develop chronically shortened ankle and calf tendons, making it painful to walk even while wearing flats.

How to Avoid Damage:

  1. Ideally, you should be wearing shoes with a low, wide heel to help distribute the weight placed on your feet more evenly. If possible, alternate your shoe choice throughout the day by wearing athletic or walking shoes to commute to and from work, or while at work. Flat shoes allow your body to move naturally while walking, and allow your feet, legs, hips, and back to stretch.
  2. Stretching your calf muscles and feet is very important because walking in high heels can shorten muscles and tendons over time. One effective way to stretch is to stand on a step with your heels hanging off the edge, and dropping your heels down. Putting a pencil on the floor and trying to pick it up with the toes is another easy and effective calf stretch.
  3. As with other body parts, your back needs a break from the daily stress that is put on it. If you wear high pumps one day, opt for a cushioned flats the next. Wearing flats more often can drastically reduce the negative effects of wearing heels, so if you vary your shoe selection often, you don’t need to completely ban high heels from your wardrobe.

If you wear high heels regularly, try keeping these tips in mind to prevent a chronic condition from developing. If you feel pain and are in need of a physical therapist, contact Foothills Sports Medicine to make an appointment with a PT today.
Post Attributed to Jeff Moyer, MPT, ATC, CSCS (Biltmore Location) and Jigar Patel, PTA (Biltmore Location).

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