We get it, you love your heels! Whether it is a kitten heel or a stiletto, there is something about elevating the foot that just makes you feel more polished and powerful and changes the way you walk and carry yourself. It is a fun accessory that really brings together an outfit and is the easiest way to take a look from casual to dressy. When I think of high heels I always think of my 94 year old grandmother who to this day refuses to wear a flat shoe, even if she is coming into your home, because she believes it is the shoe that makes the outfit (the reality that she is 5 feet tall could also be a part of it). As a massage therapist and as a woman I can tell you I see both sides of the story. I understand the desire to wear a heel and I also see what wearing them can do to your body.
So, what can we do to keep our inner fashionista happy but also be kind to our body?
Limit the time you wear them- Instead of putting on a pair of heels everyday, limit yourself special occasions or on days you know you will not be on your feet for hours. If you prefer to wear heels daily at work, bring a pair of cute flats with you. This way you can wear them on your way to and from work, or when your feet start to get tired and sore.
Wear a heel with a large surface area: The smaller the surface area, the more of a balancing act you are doing. This puts stress on your muscles and joints trying to balance. Instead maybe choose a chunky heel or even a wedge.
Choose your height wisely: There are so many different height options. If you are on your feet for long periods, choose a shorter heel like a kitten heel.
The more support the better. Wearing a high heel with more coverage on top of the foot, and support around the ankle stops your feet from wobbling in your heels
So what is wearing a heel doing to your body physically?
Our feet are designed to support the entire weight of our bodies. When you wear a heel you minimize the surface area that is supporting you. You are now counting on the ball of your foot and your toes to take on your full weight.
It shortens your achillies tendon! Your achillies tendon is the largest tendon in your body. It connects your calf muscles to your calcaneus (heel bone). It is prone to injury due to its limited blood supply and the pressure that is exerted on it. When your foot is in a high heel it is in a constant state of plantar flexion (pointed downwards). In this state the achillies tendon and the muscles in the calf become shortened and stiff. This is why some chronic heel wearers will complain that going bare foot or in flats is more painful than wearing a heel.
High heels push your center of gravity forward, which can cause your hips and spine out of alignment.
So if you are going to wear heels make sure you stretch!
Take the time to stretch before, during and after wearing heels. Although there are a number of muscle groups you need to stretch, here is an easy one to incorporate into your daily routine to target the calves and achillies tendon.
Face a wall with your left foot forward and right foot stepped back, about a foot. Keep both feet flat on the ground.
Brace your body with your palms against the wall.
Bend your left knee and straighten your right.
Lean forward into the wall and bend your left knee until you feel a stretch in the right Achilles.