My assistant, Linda recently went shopping for a new pair of shoes and discovered HIGH high heel shoes are back in fashion. She felt like a kid in a candy store admiring the exotic colors and outrageous designs; Peter Max and Salvador Dali sculptures for the feet.
Too bad these works of art sit on 8 inch heels.
What a conundrum. It seems unfair that such novel shoes can cause so much pain and suffering – but they do. Here’s 6 good reasons why not to wear high heels:
Reason #1: The toes are extended (bent) at the metatarsal phalangeal joints (just behind the toes) placing the toe flexor muscles (on the bottom of the foot) in an unnatural stretched position and the toe extensor muscles (on the top of the foot) in an unnatural shortened position.
What this means: If you often wear high heels, this can cause shortening and cramping in your calf muscles.
Reason #2: The arch is heightened, reducing the shock absorption capabilities of the foot.
What this means: You will be at higher risk for knee and hip compression injuries.
Reason #3: The muscles in the middle and back of the foot are imbalanced (some overly stretched and others overly contracted).
What this means: You may get painful shin splints.
Reason # 4: The body’s weight is shifted forward over the ball of the foot (instead of distributed on both the ball and heel).
What this means: You are at increased risk for developing stress (hairline) fractures in your metatarsal bones.
Reason #5: This forward shift of body weight changes the position of all the weight bearing joints. For example, the positional shift in the pelvis makes the buttocks stick out.
What this means: Your weight bearing joints (ankle, knee, hip, spine and neck) are more susceptible to injuries.
High Heel Shoe Wear From A Neurological Viewpoint
There’s yet another way of looking at the ill effects of wearing high heels and it has to do with the functioning of your brain:
Your cerebellum (postural center of the brain) always assumes that your foot is not bent (the heels and toes are on the same plane) and based on that assumption, deciphers all the postural signals being sent from your foot.
So to your brain, any changes in that flat position is an indication of a change in the ground surface you’re walking on. For example; if you’re walking up a hill, your feet send a signal (message) to your brain that you’re walking up an incline (because the front part of your foot is higher than your heel). Your cerebellum responds by adjusting your posture so that you automatically lean forward and can walk up the incline without falling backwards.
Reason #6 Why Not To Wear High Heels: Wearing a high heel shoe, your foot is extremely bent at the metatarsal phalangeal joints and your heel is higher than the front part of your foot. So the signals being sent to your brain are misread by your cerebellum because it assumes that your heels and metatarsal heads are on the same level (which is not the case). End result; your cerebellum makes an inappropriate postural adjustment which makes walking up the incline in heels difficult and dangerous.
What this means: An ankle or knee injury is waiting to happen.
If you’re wearing a medium heel shoe, the message from your feet to your brain is less distorted because your foot is not as bent at the joints behind the toes.
And if you wear a flat shoe, your feet are basically in the same position as they are when walking barefooted. And so, the flatter your shoe heel; the more accurate the signals being sent to your cerebellum, the better your posture and balance and the less likelihood you’ll be injured.
Abnormal Foot Structures And High Heel Shoes
Typically, the flatter the heel of your shoe (such as tennis shoes) the more stable your foot will be when you walk. Conversely, the higher the heel of your shoe, the more your heel will wobble, the greater the risk for twisting and/or spraining your ankle or knee.
Now here’s the real ‘twist’: If you have an abnormal foot structure (Rothbarts Foot or PreClinical Clubfoot Deformity) you are more likely to twist your ankle or knee, regardless of the height of your shoe heels.
The reason is because when you have one of these two common foot structures, your feet automatically send distorted messages to your brain (whether you wear high heels or not). And worse; these distorted signals increase exponentially as you go from flat shoes to progressively higher heels.
Runway models are trained to walk gracefully in high heel shoes, but if you take a look around, you’ll find that the rest of us do not. And a quick glance in the shoe closet proves that today’s fashion trend is gone tomorrow; so why not do your body a favor and choose attractive lower heel shoes that don’t expose you to injury.
For more information on how shoes affect your health, read: Are Your Shoes Contributing To Your Chronic Pain? and: Sketchers ShapeUps and the Rothbarts Foot. An Ankle Injury Waiting To Happen.
To find out if you may have one of two common inherited, abnormal foot structures that cause chronic muscle and joint pain, take the Rothbarts Foot Questionnaire.
As you learn more about my innovative therapy, you may find that addressing and effectively treating your foot structure may be the missing link to ending your long time battle with unrelenting muscle and joint pain.
If you have questions about what’s involved in being treated with Rothbart Proprioceptive Therapy by long distance, see our FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions) Page.
If you would like to contact me regarding an appointment to resolve your chronic muscle and joint pain, click here.
Professor/Dr. Brian A. Rothbart
Chronic Pain Elimination Specialist
Discovered the Rothbarts Foot and the PreClinical Clubfoot Deformity
Developer of Rothbart Proprioceptive Therapy
Inventor and Designer of Rothbart Proprioceptive Insoles
Founder of International Academy of Rothbart Proprioceptive Therapy
Author of Forever Free From Chronic Pain and The Foots Connection to Chronic Pain