High Heels Can Alter Your Anatomy

Those pricy pumps may cost more than you think: They can actually change the shape of your body.

Confident woman

Those pricy pumps may cost more than you think: They can actually change the shape of your body. Still can't do without? We've got tips for selecting shoes that are fashionable -- and more foot-friendly. Got a high heel habit? Fashionistas are long accustomed to living by the adage ‘No pain, no gain’ — but in addition to the aching feet and other common ailments, high heels can actually alter the shape of your body, according to a British study.

According to the findings, published in the Journal of Experimental Biology, the incline of high heels causes the calf muscles to contract. And over time, this causes the muscle fibers to shorten and the Achilles tendon — which connects the calf muscle to the bone — to stiffen and become thicker. Changes in calf muscles and tendons can be so pronounced — and stretched beyond their normal range of movement — that habitual high-heel wearers experience discomfort when they walk around in flatter shoes or sneakers. “In a way, the system has adapted to this new position,” study leader Marco Narici of Manchester Metropolitan University told Live Science. “When they wear high heels the muscles feel more comfortable.”

Scientists already know that when people place their muscles in a shortened position for a long period of time — such as in a plastic cast — the muscle literally becomes shorter, Narici added. For the study, researchers looked at 80 women aged 20 to 50 who wore high heels of at least two inches almost daily for at least two years. Ultrasounds showed that when compared with women who did not wear heels, they had calf muscle fibers that were 13 per cent shorter. MRI scans also revealed the Achilles tendon was thicker and stiffer for the high-heel wearers.


So what’s a girl to do? Give up high heels forever? If you can’t quite see yourself making a permanent move from those fierce stilettos to more sensible footwear, Narici recommends a less dire measure: engage in stretching exercises when you kick your heels off at the end of the day. Avoid stylish shoes blues The American Podiatric Medical Association (APMA) offers these tips for selecting fashionable — and healthier — footwear.

The Perfect Pump. When selecting a pump, beware of styles that are too pointy. The pressure placed on toes over time can contribute to unsightly bony prominences (hammertoes) as well as bumps at the base of the big toe (bunions). Also look for shoes with deep toe boxes for more comfort and wiggle room. Sling-backs. Make sure straps aren’t too tight to prevent chafing on the back of the heel. Conversely, make sure they aren’t too loose, so that you don’t need to constantly pull them up. (Note: Products such as Foot Petals’ Strappy Strips can be placed on the inside of straps to prevent them from cutting into or sliding down the heel.)

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Cynthia Ross Cravit of 50Plus
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