27 Nov High heels, what are the best to wear?
The party season ramps up and the high heels come out of the wardrobe. Whilst we all love to look stylish, prolonged wearing of high heels can cause problematic foot pain and other muscular-skeletal issues. It’s a common issue that we see a lot in our physio practice. High heel associated problems range from common concerns such as bunions to more complex issues like hammer toes, plantar fasciitis (heel pain- see our previous blog post), overworked or injured calf muscles, achilles tendon and ankle pain, even low back pain.
Your feet are the base of your body’s support and affect the wellbeing and comfort of the rest your body. When you wear high heels, your foot is contorted into an unnatural shape, and redistributing your weight incorrectly.
The increased weight on your toes causes your body to tilt forward, forcing your back to overcompensate by arching backwards, creating a strained posture. Over time, wearing high heels can shorten the muscles in your calves and back, leading to muscular pain. Women who wear heels often suffer a shortening of the achilles tendon, leading to heel pain or plantar fasciosis
If you experience pain when wearing heels, take them off around the office and gently stretch your calves and toes to relieve the tension. We advise to minimize the time you spend wearing high heels, however if you wish to wear them here are some useful pointers for limiting pain resultant of high heels.
Tips for Wearing Heels this Party Season
- Choose shoes with a low heel of around 3cm or less in height, a gradual pitch (slope to the heel) and a wide heel base (wedges). A thicker heel will distribute your body weight more evenly, whilst stiletto type heels provide little support. A lower heel height can take some of the pressure off the foot structure and reduce negative postural effects on the knees, hips and lower back.
- Wear soft insoles to reduce the impact on the balls of your feet. the tissue here is sensitive to prolonged pressure.
- Make sure your shoes are the correct size – length AND width.
- Don’t wear high heels all day, wear more comfortable shoes, such as flats, runners or sandals when doing extensive walking or standing. After a night or day in heels, try wearing a pair of flats for a few days.
- Stretch regularly – take time to stretch your calf muscles and feet (around four to five times a day, holding for 15-30 seconds each stretch).
- Calf Stretch. Place foot behind you and press heel down into the floor. Straight knee 3 x 30 secs and then with a bent knee 3 x 30 secs. Alternatively you may drop your heel off the edge of a step, or place the ball of your foot up the wall and lean into it.
- Stretch toes. Cross ankle over your opposite knee and with one hand hold all 5 toes. Pull toes down and hold, then press up and hold. repeat x 10.
- hamstrings and nerve mobilisation. Lying on your back, lift leg straight up, place a towel over the ball of your foot and hamstrings, calves and foot….all together.
- Self massage – roll a tennis ball under your foot. See our video for instructions.
- If nothing relieves your pain see a physio for treatment. Here at Physio Body and Sole in North Sydney we are experienced in treating all types of foot and ankle pain.
- Load placed on the achilles is least when walking barefoot (Scott Wearing, research Queensland University). It takes a 10cm heel raise to equal the force achieved by walking barefoot! Shoes do not unload the tendons. They do pad the sole of the foot; however, this is a different matter.
= how can this be?
- Walking slowly imparts more force on the achilles and muscles than fast walking. Fast walking utilises the elastic potential energy (spring) in the muscle.
- Tendon weakness was often also found in the opposite limb to the injury.