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The Dangers of Wearing High Heeled Shoes

Updated on April 23, 2013
"Flying Skirt" photograph of Marilyn Monroe taken in 1954 on the set of The Seven Year Itch in California, Photo by Sam Shaw
"Flying Skirt" photograph of Marilyn Monroe taken in 1954 on the set of The Seven Year Itch in California, Photo by Sam Shaw | Source

"I don't know who invented high heels, but all women owe him a lot." Marilyn Monroe.

Wouldn't it be odd for a Western woman not to have a single pair of high heeled shoes? It is like a hidden rule in the fashion realm. The key word is fashion and not necessarily function. Women will bear discomfort (i.e. the lack of function) to reap the benefits of appearance (i.e. fashion). The harmful effects of high heels are verified by orthopedic surgeons. The general consensus is that there are particular dangers that are associated with wearing high heeled shoes. Fortunately, there are ways to avoid certain dangers while still wearing high heels.

High heels have their fashionable advantages for women. The very fact that a man designed the unique style of these shoes leads to the reality that they can enhance the attractiveness of a woman. High heels can make her:

  • calves look firmer and more pronounced.
  • lower leg muscles more defined.
  • legs look longer.
  • butt look more rounded and pronounced.
  • feet look smaller.
  • look taller.
  • feet and toes look smaller.
  • walk seductively in short and tipping strides.
  • posture more upright causing her to even push out her busts.

The higher the heels the greater these advantages will be, and at the same time the physical health hazards will increase.

Women's Shoes and Knees Osteoarthritis

by D. Casey Kerrigan, Jeniffer L. Lelas, Mark E. Karvosky
by D. Casey Kerrigan, Jeniffer L. Lelas, Mark E. Karvosky

Science Fact: Did you know that a woman wearing high heels will exert more pressure on the ground than an elephant?

The Dangers

The chart "Women's Shoes and Knees Osteoarthritis" is an excellent resource for a visual depiction on the negative effects of wearing high heels can be experienced in particular sections of the feet, legs and back. (Click on it to get the enlarged version; download it; print it; use it.)

The Feet: Wearing heels is an art and women deserve medals for learning to walk in them (let alone run!). When a woman is walking in heels, she is basically walking on the balls of her feet. The ball of the foot will experience intense pressure, and this pressure more than doubles with every inch in height of shoe heel. Ankle injuries are always a threat and the degree of injuries can extend from sprains to fractures. Calluses, corns and bunions can be formed on feet due to high heels, especially if the shoes are tight, tough or walked in for long periods.

Metatarsalgia is a condition affecting the ball of the foot, where all the weight is concentrated on when a woman is in heels. Hammertoes is a condition where the toes are maintained downward curled position because of the continual confinement of the feet in the high heels. The muscles of the feet become tight and are unable to stretch and straighten when out of the shoes.

A pump bump can be recognized on the heel where the straps of high heels are wrapped around. The straps cause intense friction on the heel causing that nuisance of a bump to form. Women may complain of numbness, sharp pain and burning in the toes and ball of the foot when wearing high heeled shoes - all of which are symptoms of Morton's Neuroma. Morton's Neuroma is the inflammation of the tissue surrounding the nerve between the 3rd and 4rth toe.

The Knees: High heels cause much more pressure to be exerted on the knees. The force that causes such pressure is more than what the knees are designed for, and can give rise to a condition called osteoarthritis.

Posture: Consider that when you tip you cause all your weight to be projected towards the ball of your feet. You will involuntarily adjust your posture to compensate for a shift in your center of gravity. This is a similar occurrence to wearing high heels, and it will be worse because the feet will be in a fixed position. A woman will have to bend her spine in the lower back more to keep her balance. Women may wonder where certain back, shoulder and neck pain may come from. Well, high heels are a prime cause of such pain in the torso.

The Lower Legs: The calves will tend to retain the contracted and shortened state due to the feet being in high heels. The calf muscles may become difficult or virtually impossible to straighten without medical intervention. A similar condition can occur with the Achilles' tendon where it too can retain it's shortened state even when a woman is not wearing heels.

Brave Women Running In Heels!

Tips On Reducing The Dangers

The physical dangers of wearing high heels should be kept into consideration when choosing the next pair.

  • Always choose comfortable high heeled shoes. Consider high heeled shoes with an airbag or very comfortable sole that protects your feet from rubbing and provides shock absorption.
  • Choose to try on shoes at the end of your day, as they swell throughout the day when you stand and walk around.
  • Try on both pairs of shoes, as your feet may not be identical in size and the shoes may not be identical in size as well.
  • Limit your walking and standing when wearing high heels.
  • Stretch tight shoes with shoe stretchers to make them more comfortable.
  • Avoid running in high heels!
  • Have your legs and feet massaged after wearing high heels.

"These High Heels were not made for walking." Anonymous

High Heels Poll

What's your favorite type of high heels?

See results


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    • sjkhan profile image

      Sara 5 years ago from Pakistan

      Very interesting hub! thanks for sharing.Voted up!

    • profile image

      littlefeet 5 years ago

      what an informative article! I am so glad to read this before I go shopping for my perfect (read, beautiful and comfortable) heels. I have been on that quest for quite some time. Thank you.

    • Raevyn14 profile image

      Raevyn14 5 years ago from Tecumseh, Oklahoma

      Very interesting. I do wear heels, they're about 2 inches and they're boots. I was told that if I wear these things all the time, I can do incredible damage to my hips when I get older.

    • CWanamaker profile image

      CWanamaker 6 years ago from Arizona

      I was unaware of some of the dangers until this hub, thank you.

    • Anjili profile image

      Anjili 7 years ago from planet earth, a humanoid

      Judging from the number of women in high heels on our streets, I wonder if they would take this advice. Good info. Keep up and take care

    • selfbetter profile image

      selfbetter 7 years ago

      I have never liked the way women wearing high heels look. It looks unnatural and unhealthy. I just emailed this article to my wife. Thanks!

    • theblackedition profile image

      Shane Brown-Daniels 7 years ago from Jamaica

      I'm glad you liked it Kristiene! They look great, but be careful :)

    • kristiene profile image

      kristiene 7 years ago from philippines

      Very Informative and interesting!! thanks for sharing this....I am not fun of using hi-heels only for some occasion that is really necessary .. but most of the time i wear flat sandals and shoes.. Hi-heels gve me a nightmare...

    • Georzetta profile image

      Georzetta Ratcliffe 8 years ago from Pennsylvania

      Found the link. I could not remember where I had read it. I did not remember the quote accurately however. Anyway, read for yourself.

    • Georzetta profile image

      Georzetta Ratcliffe 8 years ago from Pennsylvania

      Give me a few days to find the article and I will get the link to you.

    • theblackedition profile image

      Shane Brown-Daniels 8 years ago from Jamaica

      Thanks wavegirl22 :) I am amazed at how ladies walk around in them - experts indeed. Maybe comfort is learned?

    • wavegirl22 profile image

      Shari 8 years ago from New York, NY

      I stand tall at 5 feet but most times I like to stand taller! I have always worn'high heels' and I guess cause I am used to them it is most comfortable to me. Loved this Hub! Rated up ;)))

    • theblackedition profile image

      Shane Brown-Daniels 8 years ago from Jamaica

      Thanks 2patricias! High Heels on Ladies absolutely look good, but the negative implications are unfortunately common.

    • 2patricias profile image

      2patricias 8 years ago from Sussex by the Sea

      We knew that high heels are not healthy but they look good.

      This is an excellent hub, very thorough and with helpful tips.

      Well done.

    • theblackedition profile image

      Shane Brown-Daniels 8 years ago from Jamaica

      Thanks Georzetta! That's an interesting fact. I'd like to have a read - would you send a link?

    • Georzetta profile image

      Georzetta Ratcliffe 8 years ago from Pennsylvania

      Very Interesting. I really enjoyed the tips for keeping yourself safe in high heels. I will pass them along.

      Coincidentally, I read an article yesterday that said that any book with high heels on the cover almost always sells well.