Did you know that high heeled shoes were originally created for men? There are a few different stories as to the origin of the high heel, but the history can be traced back to medieval horse riders. These men were looking for ways to stay in the saddle better even during raucous rides. The elongated heel of a shoe could be somewhat hooked into the stirrup, keeping the feet from slipping. This gave him better leverage and he was able to stay in the saddle for longer.
But that’s old news. Nowadays, it is primarily women who wear high heels, and now it’s a fashion statement instead of a practicality. Indeed, high heels have a lot of benefits, appearance-wise. They help the wearer appear taller, more lithe, and thinner in general. Legs look longer, bodies sleeker, and outfits more fashionable.
The problem is that beauty comes at a cost – several, in fact. The health hazards of high heels aren’t often considered when a person is out shoe-shopping, but there are a few problems that come with wearing heels on a regular basis.
When you put on a pair of high heels, you’ll notice that your weight is shifted forward, and if you look at the shoe, it is easy to see why. There is simply more surface area at the front of the shoe; the heel itself may only cover a small amount of ground. This means that to keep from snapping the heel, your body naturally balances forward, where it has more support. This puts a lot of stress on the ball of the foot which in turn makes a twisted ankle a lot more likely. Without support around the heel, the ankle has to work overtime to keep the body upright, meaning that even walking on slightly uneven ground can cause a tumble.
With all of the weight pushing forward on the feet and less on the heel, there’s an immense amount of pressure on the toes as well as the balls of the feet. Your body weight is literally pushing your toes to the end of the shoes. If the pair you’re wearing has a pointy shape to it, your toes will be further stressed and deformed. Wearing heels regularly, or daily, keeps your feet in an unnatural position for too long, leading to the inability to stretch out your toes and regain your natural foot shape.
Morton’s neuroma is swelling of the tissue in the ball of the foot, typically in the tissue around the nerve located between the 3rd and 4th toe. It’s often present in the feet of people who wear heels often. When the weight is shifted to the ball of the feet, the pressure can cause the swelling of that tissue. Symptoms include numbness in the toes, burning or pain throughout the toes and ball of the foot, or intense discomfort and tightness.
Without enough surface area in our shoes to help feet connect to the ground, the leg joints have to work overtime to stabilize the body. The knees are especially weakened by prolonged stiletto-wearing since they are responsible for keeping the lower legs and feet in line. The extra pressure of heels can cause the knees to be overworked and lead to osteoarthritis.
While you are wearing heels, you may feel like you are standing straighter and have better posture, but this is a bit of an illusion. Having our body weight shifted to the front of our feet instead of evenly spread out means that we are constantly having to compensate for that shift. With the weight on the balls of the feet, we are able to remain upright while in heels, but once we take them off and our center of gravity shifts back, our posture will suffer. The constant readjusting keeps our body from being able to understand where our center of gravity actually is, and it will just try to cope with whatever we do to it. Essentially, high heels lead to bad posture through training.
While wearing heels can be fun and make us look great, we definitely shouldn’t be wearing them all the time. Luckily, as nurses, we work in a profession that doesn’t require heels or business wear, but we should still take care to wear the right shoes on our days off. If you want to wear heels occasionally without hurting your body, opt for wedge heels for better weight distribution, or a kitten heel for a low-key effect.