High heels remain one of the most popular forms of footwear in the UK. Many of the patients who visit our chiropractor clinic in Stoke on Trent say they enjoy wearing heels because they add height, accentuate the muscles in the legs and improve how the body is positioned.
Unfortunately, wearing high heels can place additional strain on several parts of the body. If you frequently put on heels, this strain can eventually lead to health problems that necessitate a visit to our chiropractor in Stoke on Trent.
In this post, our Stoke chiro will explain how wearing high heels affects the body, before sharing some of the health problems associated with heels and sharing some tips for wearing heels safely.
How Your Body’s Position Changes When Wearing Heels
Several changes occur to the body when you wear heels:
The curve of your spine changes
The spine has a natural S-curve to it, which acts as a shock absorber that reduces the amount of stress the vertebrae experience. Unfortunately, wearing heels can alter this S-curve which leads to some unexpected problems.
When you wear heels, your centre of gravity is further forward than normal. This causes the lumbar spine to flatten and leads to a posterior displacement of the thoracic spine. In easier to understand terms, the lower back and chest are pushed forward while the hips are forced out of alignment with the spine.
To compensate for the frontal weight shift caused by wearing heels, most people will try to push their upper body back using their muscles. This can be quite stressful on the back’s muscles and vertebrae.
Bodyweight is concentrated on the balls of the feet
High heels place the feet at a steep angle. This places much more weight on the ball of the foot, changing how pressure is distributed across the joints in the ankle and foot.
Your muscles become tighter
The angled position of the feet causes the calf muscles tighten up. Although this is a great way to show off your gym toned calves, it can also place a lot of pressure on your muscles, tendons and ligaments.
If you wear heels frequently, it can eventually shorten the calf muscles. The tendons which attach the muscles to bone can also become thicker due to the increased load they are being forced to carry each day.
One of the main ligaments which can be affected is the plantar fascia. This ligament forms the foot’s arch. The plantar fascia is connected to the calf muscles which are then connected to the hamstrings. The hamstrings are connected to the lower back and pelvis.
So, if your feet are uncomfortable in high heels, it can have a tightening affect on everything from your feet to your lower back. Over time, this additional strain can lead to health issues.
Additional pressure is placed on the knees
Wearing heels also places more strain on the knees. Injuries become more likely, which is why we often see high heel wearers with knee soreness visiting our Stoke chiropractic clinic.
What Injures Can Occur From Wearing High Heels?
People who regularly wear high heels often experience painful conditions that cause them to visit our chiropractic clinic. The most common conditions which they present with include:
Foraminal Stenosis occurs when the intervertebral foramen become too narrow. The intervertebral foramen are openings along the spine which protect the nerves that run from your spinal cord to your limbs.
When an intervertebral disc slips or herniates, it can narrow these openings and compress the nerves, which can cause tingling, numbness, muscle weakness, spasms and cramping.
Patients with this condition also experience pain which radiates from the buttocks to the legs. This condition is often related to sciatica.
Spondylolisthesis, also called a slipped vertebrae, occurs when one vertebrae slips over the vertebrae below it. It is more likely to occur in the lower back as the vertebrae are smaller in this location. There are many causes of spondylolisthesis including misalignment of the facet joints.
Generalised back pain
Wearing high heels places a significant amount of strain on the muscles and joints of the back. This can lead to soreness and stiffness in the affected areas. Fortunately, this issue can usually be resolved by receiving soft tissue therapy from a chiropractor.
The sciatic nerve is one of the largest nerves in the human body. It stretches from the lower back through the hips and down the legs. If this nerve is pinched or compressed, it can cause pain, tingling and numbness in a variety of locations. Patients who wear heels frequently are at higher risk of developing this condition.
Preventing High Heel Related Injuries
Fortunately, there are several ways to reduce the impact of high heels on your body.
- Stretch before and after wearing high heels
Stretching the hip flexors and leg muscles for a couple of minutes.
- Massage the muscles in the feet
Massage the muscles under the feet to relax the plantar fascia and loosen the hamstrings. Rolling a golf ball or tennis ball under the feet is a simple way to relax your foot muscles.
- Strengthen your ankles with exercise
Remain active so your ankle joints and associated muscles remain in top condition. Yoga, running and walking all help. If you are near a beach, try walking barefoot on the sand, as it is a great way to strengthen the ankles.
- Buy your high heels later in the day
The feet naturally swell in the afternoon, so shopping for heels later in the day will help you find a pair of shoes that fit your feet all day long.
- Avoid the pointed toe
Heels with a very narrow point toe can be quite painful on the feet, so avoid them if possible.
- Consider leather insoles
Leather insoles will help your feet remain comfortable in the heels and reduce the risk of your feet slipping inside the shoe.
- Limit heel height to two inches
A 2-inch heel exerts about 30% more pressure than a 1-inch heel, while a 3-inch heel exerts about 50% more pressure than a 1-inch heel.
- Avoid wearing heels for very long periods
Avoid heels if you know you will be on your feet for several hours and look for opportunities to take your heels off throughout the day.
If you require any more information on incorporating these techniques into your day, ask us when you visit our chiropractic clinic in Stoke on Trent.
Take your first step towards better health and call us on 01782 848 184 today
From the team at City Chiropractic Clinic
Our Chiropractors in Stoke on Trent are here to help you