High Heels: From the ground up - The facts about your Posture
When you take off a pair of shoes at the end of a long day, your feet feel great. There’s nothing quite like that feeling you get when you take your shoes off. Your feet have spent their life wrapped up in shoes and have become dependent on them.
Wearing shoes has a dramatic effect on how we stand and move around. Heels (of any size) put us off balance, causing us to lean back compensating by misaligning our spine. Thick and cushioned soles insulate us, reducing sensory feedback from the ground. Stiff soles don’t allow our feet to bend where they naturally want to, which changes our gait.
The fact is shoes alter everything, and not for the better. Wearing shoes weakens our feet and actually creates the need to wear shoes.
The foundation for our body is our feet; everything physical about us is supported from there, from the ground up. The foot functions as a compliant mechanism of reception and distribution of body weight, adapting to surface irregularities and acting as a rigid lever that propels the body forward during walking. Footwear gives support to the feet and should be worn to enhance their functions, instead of interfering with the transmission of information from the pressures on the adequate support areas or during the movements needed while walking. Shoes not only protect us from the ground we walk upon, they insulate us from it, tricking the brain into thinking that the terrain is always what the insole of your shoe is.
They don’t bend where our feet bend, they bend where it’s convenient for the shoe to bend – if they even bend at all. They cram our toes into a very un-footlike-shaped box. They raise our heels above our toes, even in the flattest of shoes, throwing us off-balance. They support our arches and thus weaken them by interfering with their function. They press the balls of our feet into an insole well, giving the impression of stability whatever we’re stood on. All upright movements are forced to adjust to never standing on level ground – the whole time.
The heels on shoes, even small ones, alter the angle at which you stand. This makes the body lean forward, altering the angle of your body so your weight isn’t evenly distributed, which if you didn’t compensate for would make you fall over.
So, you realign your body to compensate in order to be able to stand on elevated heels.
This realigned shape is not good posture; you are straining almost all muscles in order to remain in this unnatural stance.
In heeled shoes you bend your knees leaning back, compensate for this by bending at the waist leaning forward, compensate for this by pushing your chest out and finally compensate for that by tilting your head back. Doesn’t sound good does it? Your body wants to stand up straight but this is impossible in heels, so you are forced to stand with a crooked posture.
Over time this crooked posture takes its toll on your body. Knee, hip, back, neck problems. They are all connected by an incorrect posture and every time you wear heels, you’re worsening them. Good neutral posture cannot be achieved unless the feet are planted firmly on the ground. That's just the beginning of how detrimental these fashion accessories can be to your body.
High heels increase the pressure on your forefoot; as the height goes up, so does the pressure, you’re looking at an increase in pressure of 22% wearing 1 inch heels, 57% wearing 2 inches, and a mighty 3 inch heel can increase pressure by 76%. Wearing high heels, your calf muscles contract, shortening and tightening as does the Achilles tendon. Women who wear high heels on a day to day basis often feel uncomfortable when switching to flats, due to the need for the posterior musculature of the lower leg needing to lengthen in this type of shoe. The altered posture high heels create also increases pressure on the inside of the knee; a common place for osteoarthritis in women.
Then you’ve got the risks of such delightful things as Hammertoes; narrow space for the toes results in the toes bending down and in at the middle joint, this deformity remains when you’re not wearing shoes. Bunions, body growth on the side of the big toe’s base joint forces the big toe to angle inwards. Metatarsalgia, pain in the ball of foot due to increased pressure. Thickening of the tissue around nerves between third and fourth metatarsals, causes numbness and pain called Morton’s Neuroma.
High heels were not made with comfort in mind. For women wearing high heels, the effect is exaggerated and easy to understand. Heels make females stick out their bum and boobs to compensate for the heels pushing them forward. The bigger the heel, the more they have to stick things out. This combined with the increased height makes women feel more confident and sexy.
Of course the same perceived benefits (and actual health detriments) are also present with smaller heels, just to a lesser extent.
Flip flops seem like pretty minimal shoes, so they must be better right? They don’t have a back strap, without this you need to clench the toes slightly to keep them on. You probably don’t even notice you’re doing it. Muscles in the feet and lower legs stay contracted from gripping to hold shoe in place. That repetitive gripping causes tendinitis, hammer toes and bunions. And the friction! Between insole on the shoe and sole on your foot, also between straps and skin.
The answer isn’t to just stop wearing shoes of course, it's not practical but more so to think about variation and purpose linked to activity, as well as moderation. Think about and be conscience of what you are wearing on your feet, and think about how they are affecting your body to be able to look after your body.