High heels are fashionable; a pair of heels on any outfit usually goes a long way in making any woman look classy, elegant and sophisticated. Nollywood and Hollywood have only helped to reinforce this fashion style, as we constantly see actresses and other celebrities flaunt their heels on the red carpet. However, as good as these heels look they can really do some serious health damage.
Over the years, experts have cautioned that high heels can cause more serious health challenges than just your regular foot aches. The Spine Health Institute, USA recently conducted a research on the health hazards of high heels; here are some of the findings made.
Whenever women put on heels, the body naturally tries to compensate for the off-kilter balance caused by the heels. The body compensates by flexing or bending the hips and spine forward. The chest and lower back is pushed forward, taking the hips and the spine out of alignment. Excess pressure is placed on the knees and there is increased pressure on the balls of the feet due to a downward pressure. The calf, hip and back muscles become tense in order to maintain balance and at the end of the day, there is excess muscle fatigue and strain. Over time, wearing high heels can cause the calf muscles to cramp and bulge.
That’s not all, the normal ‘S’ shape of the back acts as a shock absorber, reducing stress on the vertebrae. When you wear high heels it causes the lumber vertebrae which carry the upper body weight to flatten. This leads to a posterior displacement of the head and thoracic spine. What this means is simple, because you lean forward when wearing heels, your body responds by decreasing the forward curve of your lower back to keep you in line. This is poor alignment and it can lead to muscle over use and back pain.
In a report published in the International Journal of Clinical Practice, researchers studied a group of young women in South Korea who were required to wear heels to class everyday as they were studying to become airline attendants. They discovered that the attendants’ legs seemed to get stronger as they got used to the high heels. Those in their second and third year experienced greater strength in the muscles surrounding the ankles. However, those in their final year, who had been wearing the heels longest, experienced weakening in those same muscles and could barely achieve balance.
Jee Yong-Seok, PhD, a co-author of the study and a professor of exercise physiology at Hanseo University, South Korea, said that wearing high heels might at first lead to adaptation and increased strength, the ratio of strength between the front, back and side muscles of the ankle may eventually become unbalanced and unstable. What this means is, even though you feel like you are used to those heels, they would still cause you harm in the future.
Wearing heels in the long run can also cause changes in your anatomy, teetering on high heels puts stress on your back and knees which causes the body weight to shift forward. Calve muscles can also shorten and your tendons may thicken. Spondylolisthesis, which is the slippage of one vertebra forward over another, frequently occurs as a result of wearing high heels, especially in the lumber region, where the body weight is concentrated.
Having listed all these health hazards caused by heels, throwing away your high heeled shoes might be a drastic step to take. But if you must continue putting on your heels, experts say considering the following suggestions can drastically lower the negative effects of wearing high heels.
1. Avoid wearing heels for long periods of time.
2. Stretch your leg muscles before and after putting heels on.
3. Try not to wear any heels higher than 3 inches.
4. Do not wear pointed toe.
5. Buy your shoes in the afternoon when your feet are at their largest.
6. Opt for shoes with leather insoles to keep your legs from slipping.
7. Finally, buy a wide variety of shoes and vary your footwear from day to day.