What happens when you wear heels?
By Kelly Nicholas - Bachelor of Applied Science in Human Movement, Bachelor of Health Science in Paramedicine
It's fair to so say it's been a while since I've got the heels out and dressed up for for a social event.....And when I could, boy was I excited! It was my husbands surprise 40th and it was time to paint the town red - so with new heels and a new outfit I was ready to party!
And then came the aftermath....... (and I'm not talking a hangover...) By Tuesday, my lower back felt stiff and sore and I couldn't recall injuring it recently? By the time Wednesday rolled around, I was in a fair bit of pain and had a markedly reduced range of motion inhibited by inflammation around my lumbar region. I put it down to having a busy week until I put another pair of heels on the following weekend and BINGO - that was it! Standing in heels for 8 hours when I'm usually an activewear or boots kind of gal was the WORST thing I could do - especially with a pre-existing sacro-iliac weakness.
So here's why?
Wearing heels makes you look taller and have legs for days however it also tilts your pelvis forward in an anterior tilt. This places more load on your lumbar spine and the muscles and ligaments that support it. In some people, this can transfer throughout the spine and cause extra tension in the the throacic region also. I already have quite a lordotic (a big arch) in my lower back, so by placing extra load through here due to shifts in the anatomical alignment of the pelvis, it really did a number on my back!
Furthermore, your center of gravity shifts forward from where it naturally should be, making you feel like you could tip over. That means extra strain on the tendons and ligaments in your knees, as they try and keep your body in a neutral alignment. In terms of the leg muscles, they're more active walking in high heel shoes (more so down the front of the leg) while the muscles at the back of the leg (the calf muscle) actually tends to shorten. This can lead to swelling in the feet and ankles and a difficulty wearing flats as the calf muscles become shortened over time. It can also exacerbate heel pain and plantar fasciitis for those with any foot issues. A Korean study found that after years of regular heel wearing, strength imbalances between the muscles on the sides of the ankles and those at the front and back were quite profound, resulting in ankle instability and dramatically worse balance. Now whilst Lou and I laughed about how sore our feet were from wearing heels, we actually had numbness and pain on the balls of our feet for DAYS after the event - and that was from one night out!
And to validate my concerns, I found a study that was done in Victoria that looked at the number of injuries presenting to an emergency department which were directly attributed to high heel shoes (I know this is actually a 'thing' because as a paramedic, I actually took a celebrity to hospital once who had rolled her ankle badly at an event full of dignitaries in the city - she ended up needed hyperbaric treatment!). The study showed that the cohort who presented to ED were all woman who were less than 55 years of age and the most common injury was the ankle. It also showed that most women presented to ED between 8am and 12pm on a Sunday..... You do the maths!
Some interesting points but I was happy to share my recent 'injury' with you because I guarantee that many of you have probably had similar issues? So take from it what you will, but beware the dreaded heel........
Until next time, Kel :)