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  • Writer's pictureDoug Joachim

High Heels Hurt: What to Do?

Updated: Jul 17, 2023

high heels hurt

High heels hurt and wreak havoc on the body.  But why do women endure the pain?  Here are some reasons I’ve heard:

  1. They raise my butt up and make it look better. The JLo effect.

  2. They instantly increase my height and give me more power.

  3. Lots of men like them and think they are sexy.

  4. They make my calves and legs look more sleek and developed.

  5. They cover my nasty gnarly looking toes

  6. I feel sexier wearing them. 

  7. They complete my outfits. 

  8. I just like them.  

So do the benefits of wearing high heels outweigh the costs?  For most women, the answer is a resounding yes!  I know I’m never going to get women (or men) to stop wearing them.  My goal is to limit the amount of time you spend in them and perhaps reduce/prevent the associated pain.  

FYI: Most men’s shoes and athletic sneakers have heels.  Some are over 2″ higher than the lowest part of the foot!

Reasons to rethink the high heel:

  1. An elevated heel of any height shortens and weakens the calf musculature and Achilles tendon. 

  2. Prolonged use causes permanent Achilles tendon shortening.

  3. Excessive strain on the plantar fascia and Achilles tendon.

  4. A bodyweight shift forward changes your natural upright posture and causes muscle fatigue and compensatory movement patterns.

  5. Increased impact forces on all of your joints specifically your knees, ankles and toes.

  6. Increased knee, hip and spine pain due to the unnatural posture and gait.

  7. Increases the severity and frequency of headaches.

  8. Reduces the shock absorbing and elastic properties of your arches. 

  9. May cause hammertoes and other toe deformities.

  10. Increases the chances of ingrown toes, corns and bunions. 

  11. Increases the possibility of Morton’s neuroma (painful). 

  12. Increases risk of ankle sprains, breaks and strains. 

  13. Decreases the proprioceptive function of the toes and foot. 

  14. Strongly linked to arthritis in the knees.

  15. Puts undue stress on the lumbar spine and exacerbates lower back pain (or causes it).

Limiting the wear time of high heels and being barefoot (or wearing flat shoes) as much as possible will do wonders for your feet.  And due to the excessive strain high heels put on the inside of the knee (causing osteoarthritis), it is a good idea to strengthen your gluteals (which rotate your leg outwards, taking stress off the medial part of your knee) and VMO (vastus medialis obliquus– the tear dropped looking muscle on the inside of your thigh which contributes to the correct knee tracking).  Stretching your calves on a daily basis for no less than 1 minute will also be helpful to counteract the excessive shortening.  Lastly,  I recommend a “Strassburg Sock”.  This attractive knit sock can be worn to bed or while you are reading this blog.  It is primarily used to alleviate plantar fasciitis but it also strengthens your arches and keeps your foot in dorsiflexion – this position passively stretches your ankle complex and the soft tissue of your calves.  Using this sock on a regular basis is a good way to prevent or alleviate foot, knee, back pain from a high heel. 

The Strassburg Sock:

Doug Joachim – NYC

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