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1Question: What happens to our feet when we wear high heels?

1Question: What happens to our feet when we wear high heels?

Wearing high heels is definitely a challenge for our feet. But what exactly happens to them during this (unexpectedly) complicated process? We asked Dr hab. Artur Gądek, orthopaedist and traumatologist at the University Hospital in Kraków.

For most men, a woman with slender legs shod in elegant high heels is truly a sight to behold. Naturally, the higher the heels, the more spectacular the sight. However, this comes with a very steep price to pay in the form of side effects that pose a risk to women’s health. We asked Dr hab. Artur Gądek to explain to us how exactly it works.

When wearing high heels, the position of the foot is incorrect from the physiological standpoint. Excessive weight is put on parts of feet that aren’t naturally predisposed to withstand it – heads of metatarsal bones. Women stop using toes as support when taking steps. Simultaneously, the Achilles tendon is contracted and doesn’t take part in the process of walking. The position of the foot is simply unnatural, and it upsets the balance between the tendons. Joint capsules are affected to the point that they may become permanently damaged and cause physical defects, like forefoot deformation, hammertoe and mallet toe, bunion, and fallen transverse arch. Other notable ailments include overuse (and consequently damage) of the quadriceps femoris muscle, diminished movement spectrum of knee joints, and swelling caused by decreased blood flow, which can lead to varices or thrombosis.

All of this pertains to women who wear high heels excessively. To reduce the risk, it’s worthwhile to refrain from doing it from time to time.

But the abovementioned afflictions are not the end of the high-heeled horror. After a whole day of wearing high heels, there comes a brief moment of relief when they are taken off. This relief is quickly replaced with another wave of pain. Some defects become even more aggravated, since the foot is already ‘trained’ to walk in high heels, which makes it harder to return to ordinary shoes. It’s almost like a deliberate deformation of the foot that was historically popular in Asian countries. Little girls had their toes broken and their feet bound with bandages to make them appear smaller and thus more beautiful by the contemporary standards.

According to Dr hab. Artur Gądek, permanent feet damage can be avoided if high heels are worn in moderation. The bravest of us can take the chance, of course, and wear them as much as they want to. This is akin to the case of smokers, who don’t always end up with cancer, although the risk is greatly increased. The higher the heel, the greater the risk – although, as with smokers, wearing shoes with 4 or 5 centimetre heels does not prevent one from damaging the foot. It’s important to remember that we evolved to walk without any shoes.

Dr hab. Artur Gądek is an orthopaedist and traumatologist with many years of experience. He is the head of the Clinical Department of Orthopaedics and Rehabilitation of the University Hospital in Kraków and acting head of the JU MC Clinic of Orthopaedics and Physiotherapy. His interests include endoprosthetics, sports orthopaedics, and foot surgery.

Original text: www.nauka.uj.edu.pl

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