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High heels & your health

Last Updated: 17 January 2019








High heels & your health

Are you a daily high heel wearer? Do you only wear stilettos on nights out? Regardless of your relationship with the high heel. it’s important to know how your shoe choice can impact your health.


What’s the deal with heels?

Heels change the natural shape of your foot and alter weight placement within the body. This affects your posture, adding strain and pressure on joints and can be damaging to your health.  Studies have linked long-term high heel wearing to muscular imbalances, ankle instability, balance problems, declines in muscular strength and osteoarthritis.


It may not be something you’re thinking about now, but osteoarthritis is a serious health concern especially for women. About 50% of women aged 55 and over will be diagnosed with a form of arthritis, the most of which is osteoarthritis. That’s a scary statistic!


What is Osteoarthritis?

Osteoarthritis is a degenerative joint disease or more commonly a ‘wear and tear’ disease and more prevalent in women. It affects joints that have been continually stressed over time. In particular the hands, knees, hips and lower spine. Osteoarthritis causes the bones and cartilage in affected joints to slowly break down, worsening over time. Symptoms are pain, stillness, swelling and ultimately disability.


Osteoarthritis is one of the ten most disabling diseases in developed countries, with 80% of sufferers experiencing limitations in movement and 25% unable to complete their regular daily activities.


Change your heel habits

If heels are a necessity for you, there are simple things you do to limit their negative effect. The key is to give your feet a well deserved break and chance to recover as often as possible. Try out these suggestions:

  • Pack a pair of flats – change your footwear whenever you can to reduce the amount of time you spend in heels. 

  • Wear shorter heels - below two inches are best.

  • Take your heels off when seated such as when driving or sitting at your desk.

  • Sit down or change your footwear if your feet are beginning to hurt.

  • Avoid stiletto heels - these are considered the worst by podiatrists! Choose heels with a wider base such as wedges. These reduce pressure on the knees.

  • Stretch your feet and calves after wearing heels. This helps to elongate cramped muscles, improve blood circulation and encourages bones and muscles back to their natural alignment.

  • Complete ankle and leg conditioning exercises to help strengthen leg muscles for better joint support.

  • Make use of an insole - extra padding helps to reduce pressure on joints.

  • Rotate your heels – change your heel height on a daily basis to prevent your legs locking into an unnatural alignment. This can occur when you wear the same heels daily.


What else can I do to reduce my risk of Osteoarthritis?

There are a number of other factors that can contribute to the onset of osteoarthritis. The best lifestyle changes you make to reduce your risk are:


Maintain a healthy weight

Carrying extra weight can increase your Osteoarthritis risk. Additional weight places stress on joints, which may cause cartilage to break down faster. Eating a healthy diet and participating in physical activity can help you maintain a healthy weight. Experts recommend that adults engage in 150 minutes per week of moderate physical activity, or 30 minutes a day for 5 days. Regular physical activity can also reduce the risk of developing other chronic diseases such as heart disease, stroke, and diabetes.


Reduce smoking, alcohol & caffeine intake

Smoking, alcohol and caffeine have all been negatively linked to osteoarthritis. Smoking in particular has gained negative attention for increasing the risk of its’ onset. Smoking damages blood vessels resulting in increased inflammation around the body and increasing osteoarthritis risk.


If you are concerned about your bone or joint health, please contact your GP for a thorough assessment.


Written by Perri Simon

SiSU Wellness Nutritionist





McWilliams, D. F., Muthuri, S., Muir, K. R., Maciewicz, R. A., Zhang, W., & Doherty, M. (2014). Self-reported adult footwear and the risks of lower limb osteoarthritis: the GOAL case control study. BMC Musculoskeletal Disorders, 15, 308. http://doi.org/10.1186/1471-2474-15-308
Barnish, M. S., & Barnish, J. (2016). High-heeled shoes and musculoskeletal injuries: a narrative systematic review. BMJ Open, 6(1), e010053. http://doi.org/10.1136/bmjopen-2015-010053

Women's health
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