If you are walking around downtown State College on a Friday night, you are bound to see about a hundred girls walking, or at least attempting to be walking, in six-inch platform heels. If you asked any of them if their shoe choice was comfortable, you would most likely get a response along the lines of “No. My feet hurt, but at least my outfit looks cute.” In a survey by The American Podiatric Medical Association, researchers found that nearly half of all women wear high heels, and of those women who wear heels, 71% complain that their shoes hurt their feet.
A majority of women do not realize that their nights of wearing pumps, stilettos, and wedges to enhance their appearance have many long-term effects and health risks. According to osteopathic physician Natalie A. Nevins, heels can overwork your leg muscles and create poor posture. Heels can also cause lower back pain, nerve damage such as sciatica, ingrown toenails, osteoarthritis of the knee, and plantar fasciitis.
In a study on the effects of heel height, Lee Yung-Hui and Hong Wei-Hsien of the National Taiwan University of Science and Technology were able to confirm that wearing heels can increase the risks of joint disorders, lower back pain, and plantar fasciitis. Ten healthy females aging 20 to 28 years old volunteered for their study and consented to wear heels heights of varying heights while walking on a treadmill. After conducting 450 trials, their hypothesis was confirmed as the data results proved that increasing heel height does increase pressure, impact force, and perceived discomfort.
In addition, a research report from the Journal of Orthopaedic & Sports Physical Therapy confirmed that the postural alignment of the head, spine, pelvis, and knees are all impacted by the wear of heels. Fifteen female college students wore heels of different inclinations in this experiment and had their postures measured over the course of six randomized trials.
From the research on the long-term effects of heel wear, it can be understood that receiving a compliment on your black heels is definitely not worth the pain for years to come. However, if you are going to wear heels, WebMD and the American Podiatric Association advise to get the best fitting high heel that has cushion, a thicker heel for balance, a more gradual arch slope, and has an open toe to relieve pressure.
For additional information on the damage heels do to your feet over time, here is a short video summarizing the effects.