Do heels hurt your feet? Back in high school, I started wearing heels. In the 90s, thicker heels and wedges were popular as opposed to the stilettos of the past. As I grew older, the heels grew a little higher—though I don’t think I ever wore anything past three and half inches. I couldn’t stand the pressure on the balls of my feet. Everyone wore heels, heels are sexy, flats are lame and even, ugly. I worked in heels, loved my heels, loved shoes because shoes with heels are just so pretty and feminine and stylish.
I haven’t worn heels in nearly a decade. I’m 41, so I stopped wearing heels rather young in life. Usually women push wearing heels into much later in life and even wear them on special occasions when they are a lot older and their feet hurt. My mom is in her 70s and can probably even wear a little heel now, though I think the last time she did so was my wedding.
So why did I, a thirty something year old at the time, suddenly stop wearing heels?
I developed chronic planter fasciitis and couldn’t bare standing in flats, even running shoes, never mind heels. I dealt with this condition for a year, living in chronic pain and was honestly afraid I’d be living with chronic pain in my feet for the rest of my life.
What Heels Do to Your Feet
Now, while I no longer suffer from plantar fasciitis (thank God) I never went back to wearing heels. It just didn’t seem smart, and I was also struggling with occasional back pain that I just couldn’t (and still can’t) shake. And honestly, after being out of heels for so long, my feet really couldn’t take it. They were just too uncomfortable. And tight.
I’ve learned that high heels can lead to such problems as:
- plantar fasciitis
- pump bump (Haglund’s deformity)
- ankle sprains/injury
- deformed toenails
- stress fractures
- change in gait/the way you walk
- hammer toes
- ingrown toenails
- pain in other parts of your body such as knees, hips, back
Now, as someone who has experienced a lot of pain and who has sought a lot of different treatments over the past decade, none of this surprised me. I experienced a lot of these problems, specifically plantar fasciitis, knee pain, back pain, changes in the way I walk/stand.
Let’s talk about some of the above problems, what they are and why they develop.
Essentially, this is a growth of new bone over existing bone caused by wearing too tight shoes, such as high heels (pumps). It occurs on the heel of your foot or feet. It can also occur in people who wear flats (even running shoes) that are too tight. The tightness puts pressure on the soft tissue near the Achilles tendon and the bump because painful when you walk as the shoe rubs against it. Treatment does not sound fun–everything from some meds to exercises, shoe inserts, modified shoes, physio and orthotics to surgery and immobilization. From personal experience, this is all very costly, time consuming, and while it may help, sometimes it doesn’t, which is why even surgery might be needed. Not something I relish. And while you try out all these options that might not work, you will be in pain.
Heels Change the Way I Walk?
This one might surprise you, but the body is highly adaptable. Once you slip on those heels, you’re walking on the balls of your feet. This changes the position of your pelvis, the curve of your lower back is exaggerated and muscles and tendons in your legs shorten. Wearing heels too long and too often changes the way you stand and move and when you return to being flat again, your body can experience pain as its adjusted to the heels. But ultimately, this all can lead to chronic pain and injury including hamstring tears and plantar fasciitis. Ouch. This is the worst way, I think that heels hurt your feet and especially, your body.
This one surprised me a little, but I soon understood how heels can contribute to arthritis. Arthritis is primarily an inflammation problem, but it’s also connected to cartilage between joints wearing down over time, which is why the elderly often suffer from this condition. However, wearing heels causes your body to stand and move in different ways, putting pressure on joints such as the knees and other parts of your feet which can contribute to that deterioration and ultimately, the inflammation that causes pain.
Do I Throw Away My Heels?
Well, I did. After living with plantar fasciitis with a year, going to physio, wearing orthotics, seeing a couple of different specialists who just shrugged their shoulders and said it would go away, crying when I came from home because I was in so much pain, taking days off of work because of the pain–of course I threw away my heels. It cost me so much. I hated the shoes I had to wear–chunky and wide, or worse, running shoes which I never in my life wore unless I was doing something like hiking or going to the gym. Throwing away my pretty heels hurt my soul. But it saved my feet, and I think, my body a lot of pain.
However, we all know heels are not going anywhere any time soon, even if high heels do hurt your feet–our feet. I think the best thing to do if you really love your heels is take breaks from them. Bring a pair of flats to work, wear shorter heels some days, look for heels that don’t have that extreme point but a more rounded toe, look for flats with good foot support. Stretch you feet. And if you are having a lot of pain, think seriously about tossing them heels. The pain isn’t worth it.
What do you think about heels? Share in the comments below.