From The Ergoweb® Learning Center

Experts Issue More Health Warnings Against Sexy High Heels

Women depend on stilettos and stilts for leggy glamour, seduction and fun, but they wear them at their peril. Several experts renewed health warnings against high heels in August that underline the ergonomic argument against these fashion accessories, which centers on the damage they can do to the musculoskeletal system. From Britain comes the news that women are in particular danger if they are wearing stilettos when they have a few drinks “under the belt.”

The Age newspaper in Australia observed in August that women’s high heels are hitting dizzying heights in that country, with some heels reportedly as high as 5 inches. Australian Podiatry Association (NSW) vice-president Brenden Brown told the newspaper that the fashion trend was likely to increase the risk of foot and ankle injury and pain. “Your tendons claw up, so your toes are clawing up. Your calves may look fantastic, but your feet are going to look like a 90-year-old’s,” he said.

Writing from the Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation Department at the Mayo Clinic for The Eagle newspaper in Texas, Jeffrey Brault, D.O., P.T., said shoes with stiletto heels aren’t designed with walking in mind. With heels 2 inches or taller, the foot slides forward, cramming the toes into the front of the shoe. That can cause hammer toes, a deformity in which the toes curl at the middle joint. If they are worn frequently, stilettos can contribute to bunions, corns, calluses and toenail problems. He noted that stiletto heels also change the mechanics of the gait. Tiny heels hit the ground with a force several times the body weight, causing knee pain. They also change the center of gravity, meaning the wearer has to arch the back to stay balanced. That arching can cause lower back pain, he said.

Unseasonably warm weather in Britain has led to a spate of injuries caused by women falling from their high-heeled sandals, according to a BBC article in August. Rupert Evans, an accident and emergency doctor at University Hospital of Wales, told the BBC that he has seen an increase in the number of women being admitted to hospital with injuries caused by the fashionable footwear. Injuries ranged from sprained ankles to broken bones and dislocations, which caused permanent damage in some cases. He noted that backless, strapless high heels are a particular danger.

Dr. Evans observed that drinking alcohol added to the problem.

Echoing the observation, Martin Shalley, president of the British Association for Emergency Medicine, said high heels could definitely lead to serious injuries and that “alcohol and heels are a bad mix.”

The experts conceded that women’s love affair with the towering fashion accessories isn’t going to change, and they advise women to wear them in moderation as a way to lessen the risk. The two British doctors suggest moderation is also good advice for drinkers in the high-heeled sorority.

Sources: BBC; The Age; The Eagle