Common sense tells us high heeled shoes are not good for the legs, knees, or feet. But a new study contradicts that assumption. British researchers find no relationship between wearing heels and subsequent development of knee osteoarthritis.
About 2 percent of people age 55 and older are bothered by knee pain. But by the time people reach age 65, twice as many women as men complain of the problem. This has led investigators to speculate a lifetime of wearing high heels may be to blame. Little formal research exists, however, to confirm that theory.
For this study researchers compared 29 women between ages 50 and 70 who were awaiting knee replacement surgery with 82 similarly aged women without knee problems. All were questioned about past knee injuries, arthritis of the feet, smoking history, weight history, occupational activities that could have led to knee problems, and the wearing of high heeled shoes.
Wearing heels did not appear to make a difference in whether a woman had knee problems or not. In fact, women who did report wearing heels more often actually trended towards fewer knee problems.
Researchers did, however, link knee problems with being overweight during the fourth decade of life. Women who reported a body mass index at or above 25 between 36 and 40 years old were significantly more likely to have knee problems than those with a lower BMI during those years.
They conclude, "Being overweight before the age of 40 considerably increased the risk of subsequent symptomatic [knee osteoarthritis] in women. Wearing high heeled shoes did not."