The Effects Of Wearing High Heels


Jean Paul Gaultier Spring/Summer 2015

For any regular heel-donner, the immediate side effects of wearing those teetering works of art aren’t news to you. From blisters to numb toes, the things we do for the love of our towering footwear belies comprehension; but as any girl worth her Louboutins will tell you, the leg-lengthening, confidence-boosting, outfit-making appeal is totally worth it.

But the latest study to hit the scientific journals examines the longer-term consequences of wearing high heels; and more specifically, the progression of changes to your body caused over years of stiletto wear-and-tear.

A new study published this month in the The International Journal of Clinical Practice looked to university students in South Korea training to become flight attendants as their research group of choice. Why? Because these young women were required to wear high heels on a daily basis to class over four years, making them a pretty reliable group on which to examine the effects of everyday high heel wear over several years.

And the effects were significant. According to the New York Times, second and third year students “displayed greater strength in some of the muscles around their ankles, particularly those on the inside and outside of the joint,” compared to their first year counterparts.

So far, so good.

But by the fourth year, things weren’t looking quite as positive; these same firstly-strengthened muscles ended up weaker than before they started, along with the front and back ankle muscles. And their balance? “Dramatically worse,” as the Times so ominously put it.

But before you close your eyes and start chanting; “there’s no shoe like a high heel,” Dorothy-style, the sympathetic folk at the Times made sure to ask the experts what exactly we can do to help counteract these damaging effects.

The researcher behind the study, Dr. Yong-Seok, recommends heel-wearers strengthen their ankles with heel lifts (stand barefoot and rise up and down on your toes) and heel drops (stand on the edge of a stair and lower your heels over the edge).

Dr Neil Cronin was the second heel consultant/biology professor asked to weigh in (clearly, writer Gretchen Reynolds is a stiletto fan herself), and suggests taking off your heels whenever you’re seated, as even motionless wear “can alter the resting length of the muscles and tendons around the ankle.”

On behalf of heel wearers everywhere, we thank you, Gretchen.


Image: ImaxTree