High heels and your health

High-HeelsThe beginning of each year marks the height of the TV, movie and music award show season, which means “skyscraper” high-heeled shoes hit the red carpet in force. While they remain a popular dressy shoe choice of celebrities and regular women alike, are they worth the pain?

Heidi Prather, DO, Washington University chief of physical medicine and rehabilitation at Barnes-Jewish Hospital, has long seen the negative effects high-heeled shoes can have on women’s posture and overall physical health. “It’s a domino effect. High heels change the orientation of your foot, and that has direct effects to the rest of your body. Your knee and back will end up taking on that pressure, which can lead to long-term damage,” Prather said.

A 2012 study published in the American Journal of Physical Medicine & Rehabilitation, concluded that the “increased lumbar erector spinae muscle activity associated with wearing high-heeled shoes could exacerbate muscle overuse and lead to low back problems.”

In June, The Washington Post ran an informational graphic entitled “High heels can be a pain in the feet,” which illustrated the wide range of potential problems the shoes can create. From bunions, broken ankles and excessive knee joint pressure, the list of potential problems is long.

The medical community aside, many female celebrities have become advocates of flat shoes. Most recently, at this year’s Golden Globes on Jan. 12, actress Emma Thompson tossed her stiletto heels over her shoulder before presenting the award for best screenplay. “I’ve taken my heels off as a feminist statement really, because why do we wear them? They’re so painful. And pointless, really,” she said.

Prather realizes that sometimes, women feel they need to look the part. “If you are going to wear heels, look for a shoe with a wider toe box and a stacked or platform heel. It will help distribute the pressure more evenly. Of course, my best advice is to get out of them as soon as possible.”

For an appointment with an orthopedic specialist, visit us at BarnesJewish.org/ortho or call 314-514-3500.

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Category: Orthopedics

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Barnes-Jewish Hospital at Washington University Medical Center is the largest hospital in Missouri and the largest private employer in the St. Louis region. An affiliated teaching hospital of Washington University School of Medicine, Barnes-Jewish Hospital has a 1,800 member medical staff with many who are recognized as "Best Doctors in America." They are supported by residents, interns and fellows, in addition to nurses, technicians and other health-care professionals.

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