Every woman loves an eye-catching pair of stiletto heels. Many women may even spend a substantial amount of time wearing heels each week. So, a look into heels’ effect on the body is vital.

Anyone who’s worn high heels for any length of time is familiar with the pain they can cause.

People with genetic foot deformities need to be especially careful of the shoes they wear, says Justin Albright, a podiatrist with Metro Tulsa Foot and Ankle Specialists. These individuals are especially susceptible to bunions, hammertoes and other deformities.

It only takes a one-inch heel to more than quadruple the amount of normal forefoot pressure.

Even for those without genetic foot disorders, chronic Achilles tendonitis can result over time. This is a painful condition where the Achilles tendon permanently adapts to functioning in a contracted position.

“The higher and thinner that a heel is, the more the muscles have to contract and pull to compensate for the forward pull in the body.”

Heels can cause more than just foot pain, however. They can also put strain on the knees, hips and back.

“Increasing heel height increases the distance between the floor and the knee,” says Albright. “The more consistent stress and strain on the knee, the more likely that osteoarthritis can occur.”

High heels also cause hips to remain contracted, making a person bend forward slightly and decrease the curvature of the spine, which can lead to spinal pain and even degenerative disc disease.

“The higher and thinner that a heel is, the more the muscles have to contract and pull to compensate for the forward pull in the body,” says Andronica Handie, foot and ankle surgeon with Warren Clinic. “This is due to the fact that high heels elevate the body unnaturally. Strain is also put on the spinal column, which results in migrating pain through the legs and back.”

The thin heel of a stiletto only makes matters worse.

“Stilettos are the worst kind of heel,” Handie says. “The body is not equipped to walk in stilettos, especially for prolonged periods. The body is constantly trying to balance itself.”

In addition to the complications going on inside the body, high, thin heels can easily cause ankle sprains and fractures.

“We are built to walk only about one-and-a-half inches off the ground,” Handie says. He recommends wearing heels no more than two-and-a-half inches high, for less than two hours.

“When it comes to wearing high heels, I tell my patients, ‘Don’t do it.’ But if they’re going to wear them, limit the length of time,” he says.

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