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High Heels – Pretty and Pretty Bad for Your Body

Ouch!! My feet hurt just looking at this poor girl.

High heels seem like an accident waiting to happen. Heels have been all the rage since the term "fashionable" was coined. It is true they look great - they lengthen the leg, they thin the ankle. They exaggerate the feminine form. But wearing those lovely 3 inch Manolos could be doing more damage than just crushing and bruising the toes.

If you think high heels are at the height of elegance, you might want to know what long term affects you'll suffer. Inflamed nerves and ligaments, shortened Achilles tendon and calf muscles, hammertoes, bunions, corns, ingrown toenails, and don't even get me started on posture.

Lifting your heels up to unnatural heights totally throws your balance out the door, and you compensate by adjusting your back, hips, and shoulders. In the long run, bad posture will cause terrible lower back pain, leg pains, and headaches.

What's worse? Wearing high heels may also be linked to knee osteoarthritis, a painful, degenerative joint disease characterized by the breakdown of the cartilage surrounding the knee, because when women wear heels, it puts repetitive pressure and stress on the knee joint. The thing is, it takes a while to feel the effects of knee osteoarthritis, but once you do, it's too late to undo the damage you've already done.

Fit's Tips: The best thing to do is to ditch those high heels and wear flats, or alternate every other day between heels and comfy shoes. Your feet, knees, hips and low back will love you for it.

Join The Conversation
nyxmoxie nyxmoxie 7 years
I don't wear heels at all. I tried to wear high heels when I was 18, I couldn't get the hang of it, plus they were so uncomfortable and my feet hurt all the time, that I gave up. I love how high heels look, love the styles, they're gorgeous but not for me. I refuse to suffer for fashion. I wear flat sandals, flat boots, sneakers, flip flops, ballet flats for work. I avoid any shoe with a heel at all costs. My feet are healthy and happy, plus by not buying heels, I'm also saving hundreds of dollars.
jill37 jill37 9 years
When I was just 25, I developed serious nerve damage in one foot and had to have a painful surgery and spend two months on crutches! My problem was caused by high heels and shortened achilles tendons/tightness in the back of my legs -- but this could have been caused by the heels, too. Now I very rarely wear heels and only when I know I won't be walking much (going to a restaurant, for example). My bad foot still keeps me from lots of high-impact exercises. Some people are more prone to these problems than others, but please listen to your body!
jessica6 jessica6 10 years
I always wear heels and love them. All my heels are 4" to 5.5", and I have no problem walking in them. In fact, I can't walk in lower heels or flat footed.
DCStar DCStar 10 years
When I started dating my husband, I wore a lot of heels, but he encouraged me to just try flat shoes and sneakers, even buying me really cute pairs, because his grandmother suffers the most AWFUL foot problems from wearing heels, so thanks to my husband, my feet are happy. I LOVE YOU BABY :)
lydia-holmes lydia-holmes 10 years
High heels are cute only for a special occasion.
Schaianne Schaianne 10 years
My husband is 4 inches shorter than I am ... was a big incentive to stop wearing heels back then ... now I'm so used to flats that heels give me cramps and hurt!!
Karla-Sugar Karla-Sugar 10 years
An interesting detail: when the 50s became the 60s, liberated women came down off their pumps and into flat shoes. And major injuries followed! Their calf muscles were shortened and they weren't ready for the sudden change. Rather than alternating days, just try to stretch your calf muscle before and after you wear your heels -- sudden changes aren't good for you either.
mandiesoh mandiesoh 10 years
i used to wear them all the time (is this how my tension headache came about??!) but i broke my right foot a few years back, and now i alternate. my foot still swells and hurts when i wear heels too often :(
brokenbracelet brokenbracelet 10 years
they do hurt like a beyatch....but I always feel so sexy in my heels. But flats are adorable
ilove2ski ilove2ski 10 years
I hate wearing heals, because I'm already 5'9. But every so often I do wear them
yamahamama yamahamama 10 years
Yes, most of us know high heels are bad for you, but they make my legs look killer! I don't wear them every day--sometimes not even once a week, but I really heart them. I've found that if you don't get such a spiky heel, they're easier to walk in & they still look great. Flats are so boring to me & like one of the gals mentioned, there's hardly any support.
LaLaLola LaLaLola 10 years
I don't wear them everyday, but when I DO wear them, for a party or something I have them on all day. And I'll admit, it hurts so bad, I remember going to a party alllll day and we stopped by the park and taking of my shoes was HEAVEN!
redegg redegg 10 years
Ooo, barbie arches sound awful. I wear heels only for client meetings, maybe a couple times week, and then they are OFF! :P
Emers Emers 10 years
I could never give up my high heels! I have compromised by wearing high heels just in the office and wearing flats every where else, so I don't actually do much walking in my heels. I feel like they give me better posture too Butrfly!
Fitness Fitness 10 years
You can also get flat shoes that have higher arches - you're feet will love you! Red Egg - Thanks for the idea about the insoles. They are great for when you HAVE to wear heels - they help relieve some of the pain. Unfortunately they won't do much to prevent knee osteoarthritis, you know? It's terrible because so many women wear high heels everyday - if they only knew what it was doing to they're joints. In my yoga class, there are older women there who have been wearing heels their entire lives and they're poor feet have permanent "Barbie Doll Arches" from them.
swwonder swwonder 10 years
My mum tells me this all the time, I wasn't allowed to wear heels for ages. But what I find with flats is that they flatten the arches in my feet, which is more painful than heels. I need to get me some comfortable insoles really.
vrico2005 vrico2005 10 years
I try not to wear high heels because I know what they can do to you.
redegg redegg 10 years
Here's a great item that will prevent a lot of this: Insolias. They are clear gel inserts that are specifically for high heels that stick to the insoles of your heels. They besically hold your feet in place so that they don't shift downwards and prevent a lot of these problems Fit listed. I have them and they are a Godsend. Ending so much high heel pain for me! I'll go bookmark them... :D "Invisible Insolia High Heel Inserts make higher heels incredibly comfortable! The magic is the weight shift! Higher heels create a ramp effect putting the foot in a tip-toe position with the foot sliding toward the toe and putting painful pressure on the ball of the foot. Invented by leading podiatrist, Dr. Howard Dananberg, Insolia Inserts shift weight off the ball of the foot and back to the heel (where it belongs). Caution: Not recommended for individuals with diabetes. Features & Benefits of Insolia High Heel Inserts: Precisely located "midsole contour" keeps about 25% of weight that would slide down to the toe positioned at the back of the heel-so you feel like you're wearing heels half the height you are actually wearing. Clear gel insert fits discreetly inside shoes to reduce foot pressure. Insolia Inserts reduce pressure on the ball of the foot, lower back and legs. For best results use insoles with heel 1½" or higher."
Butrfly4404 Butrfly4404 10 years
I never get to wear my heels...which is weird because they account for at LEAST 70% of my shoes!!! I've always noticed I have BETTER posture when I wear them, though...maybe that's in my head. Still does more for my bum in five seconds than five days in the gym! :)
brown-sugar brown-sugar 10 years
I've always been too lazy to look up the longterm adverse effects of wearing high heels, so thanks for posting this Fit! You've convinced me to try to alternate my heels with my sneakers and flats.
How to Wear High Heels
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