The Effects of High Heels

The effects of high heels

High heels have been shown to increase the pressure on the medial compartment of the knee by 23%.

Last week a lovely young lady emailed me and told me she have been diagnosed with bilateral knee OA aged just 25. She has never been particularly sporty but nor is she overweight and her parents are in their 50s with no OA. So why has she got knee OA so early? The only thing her Doctor can put it down to is the effects of high heels.

Please read on and warn your children and grandchildren about this. Obesity is only one of the causes of knee OA.

The Effects of High Heels on Janine

Janine (yes that is her real name and I have her permission to tell her story) has always been a pretty healthy, normal sort of person. The only way she considers herself abnormal is that she is small, standing at just 5′ and an important 1/2” as she says! She has always been small so from a fairly young age she wanted high heels. Mum allowed this from the age of about 13 for outside school. After she left school at 16 she wore high heels pretty much all the time, including at work as a shop assistant in a jewellery store where she has worked from leaving school. Little did she realise the effects of high heels combined with a job like this.

About 9 moths ago she started to get a few aches and pains in her knees, especially at the end of the day. Next she started to feel like an old woman getting out of bed in the morning so she took herself off to her GP. He took X-rays and low and behold Janine has mild bilateral knee OA in the medial compartments at age 25.

Not surprisingly Janine is shocked and upset. She has started a course of physio, and wrote to ask me what else she could do. She has signed up for my free 3 day course and says of the physio doesn’t give her some decent exercises soon she is going to sign up for Joint Control. From this she uses heat and cold packs and has started taking supplements. She has told me the physio is stunned at how short her calf muscles and hamstrings are. I believe she and the Doctor are quite right when they say this is solely caused by the effects of high heels.

If you don’t believe me then check out this research done in 1998 on the effects of high heels and the way it increases the pressure on the medial compartment of the knee.

This is the summary of their finding:

Method: We studied 20 healthy women who were comfortable wearing high-heeled shoes. The women walked with their own high-heeled shoes and barefoot. Data were plotted and qualitatively compared; major peak values for high-heeled and barefoot walking were statistically compared. Bonerroni adjustment was made for multiple comparisons.

Findings: Measurement showed increased force across the patellofemoral joint and a greater compressive force on the medial compartment of the knee (average 23% greater forces) during walking in high heels than barefoot.

Interpretation: The altered forces at the knee caused by walking in high heels may predispose to degenerative changes in the joint.

Don’t think it is just stilettos either as high heeled wide shoes were shown to be worse (26% compared to 22%).

Add this to a job where you are on your feet all day and the result is, 9 years later, you have bilateral knee OA.

The Moral of the Story

We were designed to walk bared footed. Now I don’t suggest you throw away your shoes but I do suggest you wear sensible shoes most of the time. By sensible I suggest no more than a 1” heel and make sure your shoes is flexible. When we walk we bend through the middle and front of our feet and then twist the foot slightly as we push off our big toe. To test for good flexibility hold the shoe by the heel and bend the shoe up. It should go to at least 45°. Then try to twist the toe of the shoe. It should twist at least 30°.

Keep your stilettos for going out only and, if dancing, then be wild and take them off and go bare footed! High heels are best kept for best (as my Granny used to say!). Also make sure your calf muscles and hamstrings stay long with stretching exercises. By making these changes you won’t suffer any of the effects of high heels and develop knee OA as young as Janine.

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