High Heel Health Hazards

Women risk their health when putting on heels

By Cara Winkley

High heels are seen in almost all fashion shows, fashion magazines, and women’s closets, but the pleasure in wearing this glamorized accessory may come at a cost.

Wearing high heels can not only make you look taller, thinner, and ‘sexier,’ but they can also pose a potential risk to your future health.

“Women are the ones who wear high heels and they’re the ones with the bodies that actually shouldn’t, ” said Kerry Benson, journalism professor at The University of Kansas, who wears heels frequently for work.

According to a study released this year in the Journal of Applied Physiology, women who regularly wear high heels are at risk for permanent physiological damage to their knees, hips, back and tendons. Women as young as 25 years-old are already experiencing these effects.

Some effects that may occur from wearing high heels:

  • Shortening of Achilles Tendon– The position of the foot while wearing high heels shortens the tendon and can become chronically shortened if the heels are worn often enough.
  • Bunions– Friction created as toes rub against the inside of the shoe can cause bony growths around the big toe. The big toe can then turn inward toward the other toes causing more pain.
  • Ankle sprains– High heels shift all your weight onto the balls of your feet, which causes your balance to become unstable and can lead to falling and spraining an ankle.
  • Knee Osteoarthritis–  The stress put onto the joints of the knee while wearing heels can lead to knee osteoarthritis.
  • Lower back pain– The spine is made to evenly distribute weight, but when high heels are worn it alters the posture and puts uneven strain on the discs, joints and ligaments on the lower back.
  • Morton’s neuroma– The stress put on the balls of your feet can lead to nerve swelling and inflammation known as Morton’s neuroma.

Many women do not know the specific effects of wearing high heels, but almost all of them know that there is a generalized notion of pain that comes with wearing them. Most will ignore it referring to the well-known saying, ‘Beauty is pain.’

Jaclyn Bitto, a junior from Chicago, recognizes that there is pain that comes with wearing heels, but wears them anyway.

“I like the way they look,” said Bitto. “I like the way they can complete an outfit.”

Fortunately, for women who don’t want to give up their heels, there are options. Benson, a journalism professor at KU, has come up with her own method to lessen the risks that come with wearing heels. She does not wear heels every day, but on days she does wear them she alternates heel height.

“I’ll put them on and I might wear them for class, but before the end of the day I’ll put on another level, and then at the very end of the day I’ll put on a flat” Benson said.

Some other examples of how to lessen the effects of heels:

  • Stretch– Place a towel around the ball of your foot. Grab hold of each end of the towel and pull it toward you. This stretches the bottom of your feet and your calves.
  • Wear Wedges– These put less stress on the ball of the foot and offer a more balanced support.
  • Wear Orthotic Insoles– These can make heels more comfortable and reduce the stress placed on the ball of the foot.

Each of the previous examples can lessen the negative effects of heels, but cannot completely prevent them. For the women brave enough to substitute fashion for comfort; there is only one solution.

“Not wearing them,” said Bitto. “That’s probably the best answer.”

High Heels Round – Table Discussion


Kristin Hodnik –  My name is Kristin Hodnik. I go to KU – Med. I’m in nursing school. We were told to talk about high heels. At least my stance on high heels is, I’m five – foot – nine and I rarely wear high heels. It’s not because of my height. It’s because I’m very uncoordinated and I just fall even when I’m wearing tennis shoes.

Megan Mroczek –  My name is Megan Mroczek and I just graduated last year. I don’t usually wear high heels either because I too am awkward and can’t walk in them and look silly. I used to wear them sometimes when I was a freshman and my feet would hurt some mornings when I would wake up after wearing them. They did not feel very good.

Kiley Sheehy – My name is Kiley and I’m a senior at KU. I wear heels probably like whenever I dress up. And I like to wear tall heels.

M.M. – Do you think your back is going to hurt in the future?

K.S. –  No I think my back is going to hurt because of my backpack.

K.H. –  Do your heels ever hurt?

K.S. –  No, probably the balls of my feet hurt more than the heels. But, I’ve noticed I get shin splints from running. I don’t get shin splints from my heels. I feel like.

K.H. –  At least for me I think it’s because all the weight has shifted forward in the heel that probably on the balls of your feet it would hurt. And actually I’ve heard at least through some findings that high heels aren’t really great for your feet, but if you wear Doctor Scholls in them it could probably work out for the better.

K.S. –  Doctor Scholls are effective.

K.H. –  I personally don’t wear heels, but that’s what I’ve heard.

M.M. –  One time when I wore heels in college, I woke up the next morning and my feet were swollen. Really bad.

K.H.  –  I do like to see the heels. Okay, but do you wear the really high obnoxious heels?

K.S.  – I like to, but this is what I do – I practice wearing them. If I’m cleaning my room or doing something like unloading the dishwasher ill put them on and practice.

K.H. –  But, does that hurt?

K.S. – No, it doesn’t hurt because I just wear them for little stints at a time.


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