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High Heels & Back Pain: The Price of Looking Sexy

Last Updated Jan 21, 2021

High Heels & Back Pain: The Price of Looking Sexy

We all like to look tall, sexy and glamorous and we wear high heels to achieve that effect, but we don't feel the effects on our bodies until later in life and don't believe that we will suffer from those effects, even though our mothers had back pain and warned us about them!

What are those effects? Let's start at your feet

  • High heels throw the weight of your body forward onto the heads of your metatarsal bones. Your toes are continually extended and cannot contact the ground in the way they were meant to. Eventually this will lead to corns, a dropped metatarsal arch and even pinching of the nerves between your toes.
  • Next come your ankles. They are continually plantarflexed (the foot is pointed downward) and this prevents the heel contacting the floor first, as it is meant to do. Your calves will be tight and this can lead to rupture of the Achilles tendon when unexpected strain is put on it, in sports or walking on uneven ground in bare feet. The ankle is in a very unstable position laterally (sideways) as the base of the high heel is often narrow and this can lead to sprained ankles.
  • Your knees will be slightly flexed, not extending at the point of weight bearing to transmit the body weight directly down through the leg bones (more likelihood of developing osteoarthritis) and not getting the required extension at the hip joint.
  • The hip joints do not move through the range of movements needed for walking, so all the strain falls on a small area, which tends to wear out more quickly (osteoarthritis again!)
  • The pelvis. High heels tend to exaggerate the position the pelvis is already in-tilted up or down, which in turn increases the lordosis (inward arch) in the lower back or makes the lower back too flat contributing to spasms of the back muscles, back pain and uneven wear on the discs and facet joints of the vertebrae. It is very difficult to find the optimum position for the pelvis in high heels.
  • The rest of the spine has to compensate often by rounding the upper back (kyphosis) to rebalance the body and the head often pokes forward to correct the centre of gravity, creating neck pain.                 
  • Your brain will be thoroughly confused. The normal walking pattern is to put alternative heels to the ground first. When your toes touch the ground first, the right and left hemispheres get the wrong messages and this upsets the communication between the two hemispheres.
  • Your skeleton cannot support you efficiently so your muscles will struggle to hold you up (often causing pain) let alone being free to allow to you do all the other things you do

Is it worth interfering with your whole system just to look taller and more sexy?

Bones need correct alignment to transmit weight properly. If they are out of alignment it is easier for them to demineralise and this is one of the factors contributing to osteoporosis (thinning bones). 

The Feldenkrais Method® can help you to sense your own best alignment. It gives you a large variety of movements to counteract habits and protective movement patterns from past injuries. Functional Integration® (private lessons) or Awareness through Movement® classes are available. 

Go out and buy some smart, supple low heeled shoes and give your body a chance to work properly! Your body and mind will thank you for it.

Originally published on Mar 10, 2011

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