High Heels can Be Killing You Slowly

by Tanya Thomas on Sep 23 2008 9:38 AM

They know it, but still do it! Experts have reiterated the fact time and again that the continuous usage of high heels has extremely negative long-term health impacts.

A recent study found that up to a third of women suffer permanent problems as a result of their prolonged wearing of 'killer heels', ranging from hammertoes and bunions to irreversible damage to leg tendons.

Most of the problems are caused by the increased pressure high heels put on the ball of the foot and the higher the heel, the greater the pressure. The knees and back also can be affected.

A British survey found that one in 10 women wears them at least three days a week and a third of the women had hurt themselves falling off their high heels.

"High heels make you raise your heel and as soon as you do that your centre of gravity is pushed forward," the Courier Mail quoted UK consultant podiatric surgeon Mike O'Neill, spokesman for the Society of Chiropodists and Podiatrists, as saying.

"What happens then is you bend your lower back to compensate for this and that changes the position of your spine, putting pressure on nerves in the back," O'Neill added.

This can cause sciatica, a painful condition that traps nerves, triggering pain and numbness as far down as the feet.

O'Neill said that another common problem is that the Achilles tendon - which runs up the back of the leg from the heel - becomes permanently damaged.

"This tendon is designed to be flexible, so the foot can lie flat or point. But many women who wear high heels too often suffer a shortening of the tendon because once the heel is pointed upwards, it tightens up. Stretching it again can be very painful," O'Neill said.

"When you try to put your foot into flat shoes you get a lot of pain in the back of the heel. I've seen 70-year-olds still hobbling around in high heels because they can't put their feet flat any more as it's just too painful," O'Neill added.

Other common problems include bunions, bony growths at the base of the big toe caused by tight, ill-fitting shoes, and so-called "pump bumps", where straps and the rigid backs of pump-style shoes cause a bony enlargement on the heel.

Many women also develop hammertoes, where tight-fitting shoes force them to crumple up their toes, shortening the muscles inside and leaving them permanently bent.