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What High Heels Do to Your Body: Pros and Cons

Medically reviewed by Mary Rani Cadiz, MD · Obstetrics and Gynecology

Written by Honey Buenaventura · Updated Jun 24, 2022

    What High Heels Do to Your Body: Pros and Cons

    Do you love wearing high heels? Do you feel your party get-up is incomplete without your favorite stilettos? Think again. Women wear high heels for varied reasons—to look more fashionable and sophisticated, to feel more confident, to look leaner and taller, and to have more toned-looking legs or buttocks. But wearing high heels could have several adverse effects on a woman’s body. Learn more about what high heels do to your body.

    It is nice to think a pair of high heels is an absolute must-have fashion accessory for women all over the world. But, honestly, are you aware of the health risks associated with wearing those killer heels?

    No pain, no gain?

    Dr. Sajid A. Surve, associate professor at the University of North Texas Health Science Center, Texas College of Osteopathic Medicine says, “It is not unusual for people who spend lots of time in high heels to encounter some low back, neck, and shoulder pain since the shoes disrupt the natural form of the body.” 

    The actual wearing of high heel shoes for long periods places additional stress and pressure on many parts of your body. This additional stress can cause harm not only to your knees, but as well as to your hips, lower back, and Achilles tendon.

    Many podiatrists say that when wearing high heels, it is important that the wearer takes precautions to avoid possible injuries on the back, legs, and feet.

    Medical effect of high heels

    According to Dr. Chetan Patl, MD, Orlando Spine Surgeon from the Spine Health Institute, wearing heels actually forces your body out of its natural alignment and causes you to lean forward when you stand and walk. This awkward stance will strain your back and neck muscles that result in body aches and pains. 

    The long-term risk and immediate damage of wearing high heels is on the back because of the way you are postured on the heels. Podiatrists recommend wearing the basic kitten heel only for an average of four hours, the medium-sized heels for a maximum of three hours, and the stiletto for only an hour. Wearing heels beyond its recommended time of use could cause stress on the body. The constriction and awkward angle you are walking on your toes can lead to foot pain and aggravation of bunions.

    Long term effects of high heels

    Heels, in general, are not comfortable, and our feet are not designed to walk in awkward arched angles that pinch the toes. Many studies about feet, in general, say that there is nothing healthy about wearing high heels. Long-term ill-effects of wearing high heels include:

    • bone spurs (smooth bony growths near joints)
    • plantar fasciitis (inflammation of the fibrous tissue along the bottom of your foot)
    • possible deformities 

    After many years of wearing high heels, the wearer’s body readjusts due to the shoes, she may eventually experience additional discomfort when wearing simple flat shoes or even when walking barefoot. The human body adapts to the shape of the heels, and this causes irritation when wearing other types of shoes.

    Usual high heel ailments

    Wearing high heels and continually bending your toes in an unnatural position can cause a range of ailments—from ingrown toenails to irreversible damage to leg tendons. Additionally, cramming your toes in a narrow toe box can cause nerve damage and bunions. Wearing high heels can shorten the muscles in your calves leading to pain and muscle spasms. 

    Many women suffer a shortening of the Achilles tendon once a heel is angled upwards. It tightens up in less than six months. This can cause measurable changes to the length of the tendon and muscle.

    Anytime you wear shoes that restrict the natural shape of your foot, you are at risk of experiencing pain. If you really must wear heels, try switching to lower heels to give your legs and back a break. There is a dramatic improvement in both comfort and spine health in wearing a two-inch heel versus a six-inch heel. In many circumstances, it is recommended by most podiatrists not wear heels at all.

    Check out other Health Knowledge here


    Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

    Medically reviewed by

    Mary Rani Cadiz, MD

    Obstetrics and Gynecology

    Written by Honey Buenaventura · Updated Jun 24, 2022

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