Chronic high-heel wearing can cause muscle, tendon changes

By • Published: October 11th, 2010
Category: Health in a Heartbeat

Women have long suffered through special occasions, nights on the town, even entire workdays in pain-inducing stilettos… all in the name of fashion.

And, while the blisters and aching arches have always told us our bodies aren’t happy with this sacrifice, it’s a price many ladies have been willing to pay.

But new research released in the Journal of Experimental Biology puts some scientific data behind the discomfort associated with high heels. Researchers found that constantly wearing heels higher than two inches can lead to pain even after you’ve kicked off the shoes for more comfortable ones.

A study analyzing the calf muscles and Achilles tendons of high-heel lovers and women who prefer flat shoes showed changes that take place in the anatomy with chronic high-heel wearing.

One group of women, those who had worn heels five times a week for two years or longer, had muscle fibers about 13 percent shorter than the women in the other group… those who regularly wore flat shoes. The muscle fibers shorten because walking in heels doesn’t require the calf muscle to extend as far as it does when you’re walking flat-footed.

The high heel wearers also had abnormally thick Achilles tendons… those are the ones in your heels. The two changes combine to make walking without high heels an unpleasant chore for the feet and legs.

So what’s a fashion-conscious lady to do? Well, for one thing, mix up your shoe repertoire. It’s not necessary to ditch heels altogether. You just have to wear flat shoes a significant portion of each week.

If the thought of shedding your stilettos in favor of flats makes you cringe, take heart: There are many cute styles of foot-friendly shoes out there. And who couldn’t use an excuse to go shoe shopping?