It is well known that high heels are an extremely common cause of back pain. While high heels may enhance a woman’s appearance, any heel with an elevation greater than an inch can cause countless problems in the body. High heels affect the spine and negatively impact the feet, knees, and hips.
Wearing high heels prevents the feet from functioning properly as they shift the weight forward onto the balls of the feet which adds pressure to the bones and joints. They restrict the range of motion in the foot which can lead to joint disease in the foot bones such as bunions, ingrown toenails, and hammertoe deformities.
They also shorten and tighten the calf muscles making it difficult to stretch the leg and causing the muscles of the knee to work overtime. This puts a large amount of stress on the knee joints and can pull the kneecaps out of alignment.
Wearing high heels pushes the chest forward and tilts the pelvis forward creating an unnatural posture that causes pain in the lower spine. Continuous wearing of heels can cause chronic back soreness, spasms and eventually lead to arthritis.
Since quite a large number of women in particular cannot do without heels, the following preventative measures to protect the body are advised:
- Opt for round-toed heels rather than pointy toes as these compress and deform the natural shape of the toes.
- Wear heels less often. Alternating wearing heels with wearing flats will reduce the amount of time you spend wearing heels.
- Wear a lower heel. The height of your heel will determine how much weight and pressure you put on the balls of the feet; 1-inch heels increase the pressure by 22% whereas the amount of pressure in 3-inch heels rises dramatically to 76%.
- Ensure your heels fit properly and they do not restrict or cause you to slip and slide inside the shoe.
- Opt for wider block heels or wedges rather than thin heels that will affect your balance and compromise your stability.
Wearing completely flat shoes does not provide any support for the feet which then has an effect on the rest of the body similar to what is observed in wearing heels.
Flat shoes can cause tight Achilles tendons and strain in the fascia of the feet which normally help to support the arches of the feet. This tightness can then result in fallen arches and cause overstretching or tearing of the tendons and ligaments in the feet. Fallen arches (or flat feet) are when the foot lies completely flat and pressed against the ground. Left untreated overtime, this can lead to arthritis of the knee joints.
Flat shoes put added pressure on the heel of the foot because there is little or no shock absorption from the shoe itself, instead, all the force is taken by the feet. They can also cause the feet to roll inwards (also known as over-pronation) which can push the knees and hips out of alignment causing back pain.
In order to keep flip flops on, a person will automatically have to scrunch and cling the toes to them impacting the body in negative ways. Often, flip flops offer no cushioning or stability for the sole of the foot or the toes. They also do not have straps that keep them in place and attached to the foot which easily results in sprains.
Flip flop wearers take shorter strides which can cause the ankle to collapse inwards, similar to flat shoes. These shorter strides, specifically tailored to flip flop wearing, will put extra strain on our feet, hips and lower back muscles.
Flip flops alter the biomechanics of the foot affecting the way we walk, which in turn affects our posture and cause lower back pain.
The damage caused by Flip flops can be prevented in the following ways:
- Buying flip flops with a sturdier sole
- Avoid wearing flip flops to walk long distances, drive, or play sports
- Replace your flip flops every 3-4 months
The damage caused by improper footwear can be prevented by:
- Avoiding shoes with completely flat soles
- Making sure your feet can breathe and you can wiggle your toes in your shoes
- Investing in shoe insoles that can provide extra comfort and support to the leg
- Ensuring new shoes have a cushioned sole and are shaped to support the arches
Selecting the Right Shoes
People who under-pronate tend to have high arches that are rigid and do not bend well. Such people are advised to look for shoes with plenty of cushioning material to help absorb the shock. On the other hand, people who over-pronate have relatively flat feet and should ensure to look for shoes with excellent arch support.