Killer heels – they are the wardrobe item of choice for the woman who wants to look powerful, sexy and confident, but while those added inches can make you feel a million dollars and turn heads as you sashay past, they also have a dangerous side.
The first, and least serious, of the perils of high heels is the embarrassment factor as you take a stumble. There you are striding out in your six-inch Jimmy Choos and your heel catches a stray piece of carpet, or a crack in the pavement. One false step and you have been reduced from fashion doyenne to a dishevelled laughing stock. Oh yes, people will rush to help, but you can’t help but notice the smirk as they hand you the piece of cork that used to be your heel or help you retrieve the contents of your handbag that spilled all over the floor as you took a tumble.
Embarrassment factor aside, there is a more serious effect of regular heel wearing, and it is this that concerns health professionals.RELATED: RECOMMENDED PLANS FOR YOU
When you wear shoes with heels for any length of time, your feet and legs start to make structural adjustments to cope with the change in weight distribution. There are three main changes that will occur over time.
1. More weight is put onto your forefoot with every stride you take
2. Your calf muscles and achilles tendon do not extend as they do when you are walking with flat shoes
3. Your back will develop a more pronounced ‘S’ curve in the spine as your chest pushes forwards to a greater degree.
These are all anatomical changes which will affect your gait and movement, and they are not changes that take decades to happen, research has discovered that modifications can happen within just a few years. So your quadriceps will develop to cope with the weight on the forefoot, your calves and achilles will shorten permanently and your spine will become more curved.
So if the body adapts, why is there a problem? Won’t it just sort itself out?
The answer to this is no, firstly because you are just not supposed to move in the way that high heels force you to – shorter strides, chest pushed forwards, spine unnaturally curved. And secondly, you don’t wear heels all the time, so your feet and legs are having to cope with two forms of movement.
So the bad news is, that while high heels can make us feel and look like a million dollars, beneath the surface there are problems lurking, and sooner or later they will find you out. Here are some of the more common issues connected to regular wearing of high heels.
• The increased weight on the forefoot can lead to bunions, stress fractures and hammertoes
• Wearing heels leads to more pressure on the quadriceps and knees, this can lead to osteoarthritis in the knee and quadricep tendinitis
• Shortening of the calf muscles and achilles tendon can become permanent. This means that when you wear flats you will not be able to tolerate the stretch that occurs and this will eventually tear the achilles tendon and you may also suffer shin splints
• Sprained ankles will always be a threat because your body posture is imbalanced when you wear high heels. Continuously spraining your ankle will lead to a permanent weakness, so sprains will become more and more common.
All of which is a bleak picture, and one that most of us probably don’t want to even think about. Quite often high heels are a must. Who could ever consider wearing that beautiful dress with a pair of dowdy flats? How will you make an impact in the boardroom if you have to look up to the managing director? Trainers, pumps and leisure shoes are all well and good at the weekends, or on holiday, but when you have an image to uphold or a statement to make, then sometimes those extra inches are a must.
So wear them. Put the heels on and stride with confidence. Accept the envious looks from those who can’t, or daren’t, wear six-inch heels for fear of tumbling into the plant pots. Know that eyes are following you as you walk past the queue at the bus stop. Enjoy the pleasure of unwrapping the new pair of shoes that will just go so well with your favourite evening dress.
But cheat. In your bag, always carry the high heels alter ego – the comfort shoe. Once safely in the office slip out of the heels and put the flats on. At lunchtime put your trainers on and go for a calf-extending, hamstring burning, spine straightening power walk; running for the train on the way home, make sure it is the flat sole that you are wearing, you may make the train without taking an undignified tumble.
It is a question of balance and common sense. You look great in your heels, but you want to stay looking great. Give your feet a break and your body a work out by getting into the sports shoes and letting your muscles expand and burn. Lose the inches from your height and the inches from your waist by by getting out of the heels and into the runners.
And next time you are walking into the office with your six inch heels on, make sure that bag under your arm contains your own healthy secret – a pair of trainers.