Many people think that wearing high heels frequently is worth the discomfort due to the excellent workout it provides. In fact, some gyms and studios have jumped on this idea by offering exercise classes where participants wear heels to tone and shape up. It’s true that stilettos can make people look leaner by lengthening the legs and accentuating the calves, but the benefits of wearing heels to get fit are only surface-deep.
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In fact, high heels seem to be more detrimental than good to the body! Here are multitudinous alarming things to know about wearing high heels frequently:
- A 2011 Danish study found that people who wore heels frequently were at higher risk of osteoarthritis in the future. One likely site for arthritis is the knees: The strain of walking with knees slightly bent, which is what we do when we wear heels, wears away cartilage in the knees.
- The height of this footwear puts strain on the shin muscles, potentially causing painful shin splints.
- Wearing high heels frequently causes tighter quads. Typically when people wear heels, their bodies are tipped forward due to arching their backs and bending their knees. This makes the quads work harder and puts a lot of stress on the stabilizing tendons in the knees.
- Calf muscles are one of the biggest casualties of high heel-wearing. When donning heels, our calf muscles are forced into a shortened position. Very frequent wearers sometimes have permanently shortened calves, which can cause a great deal of pain.
- The forward-leaning of wearing these shoes causes the Achilles tendon to shorten as well, leading to foot pain and putting stress on the biggest toe and the ball of the foot.
- Some health experts also suggest that, as high heels make people walk more slowly (and potentially less), they might actually burn fewer calories and gain weight in the long run.
Exercises and stretches for high heel wearing
So, it seems like there are plenty of reasons to ditch the heels in favor of something more comfortable, and frankly, healthier. But if you want to or need to wear stilettos, remember that moderation is key. Here are some stretches and exercises to do to relieve the pain caused by this footwear and prepare for heel-wearing:
- Stretch your Achilles tendons, which attach your calf muscles to your heels. You can get Achilles tendonitis by switching abruptly from regular high heel-wearing to wearing flats. But you can do some strengthening stretches to make this less likely. One good option is standing on a curb or step with your heels hanging over the edge. Rise up and down on your toes, holding for a count of two when rising up, to get a good stretch.
- If you’re walking on especially small stiletto heels, you might be prone to a fall. But you can strengthen your ankles by doing lateral hops and using a resistance band to flex your feet.
- You already know how tired, strained and tight your calves can feel after wearing towering shoes. Make sure to stretch before and after to prep your calves and give them relief. Downward dog is a good stretch because it lengthens the calves.
- Work on building your core muscles, including those in your lower back. Wearing heels requires many muscles to engage to help you maintain balance. If your core muscles are weak, this puts a lot of strain on others as well as your lower back, which can exacerbate current back problems. Do some yoga moves to gain a better sense of balance and strong core muscles, like the one-legged tree pose. Another is to trace the letters of the alphabet with one foot, toe-pointed, while balancing on the other leg. This challenging and fun exercise strengthens the abs and the muscles around the ankles.
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