HOW HEELS AFFECT OUR HEALTH
In the Spring of 2017, I graduated from university as a former undergraduate student who’d only worn heels (I’m talking no more than 3 inches) maybe twice a week, at the most. By the summer following graduation, I began working full-time, learning the harsh realities of daily heel wearing. After a few weeks of increased discomfort in my knees and feet, I was craving my ballerina flats and sandals. The experience has made me wonder. What kind of health risk(s) are women facing if they wear heels 24/7? So, I began to learn about the effects of heels and footwear design on women’s health. How does your heel height actually affect your health? I explored this question as I did some podiatry research. In my search for answers, I came across an article published by Jessica Chou in Refinery 29 and a podcast episode “These Shoes Are Killing Me!” By Freakonomics Radio last year.
According to the podiatrists from these sources, heel lovers are at risk for lower back pain, osteoarthritis, pinched nerves, excessive knee damage, etc. all because of this societal standard of beauty and success. Fortunately for heel lovers, there can be positive benefits to short heels. To be exact, 1.5- inches seem to be the golden height of approval within the world of podiatry. A heel around this height can actually provide arch support for flat feet.
For true heel fanatics, this everyday short heel might be too far-fetched a concept. To a former stiletto lover like myself, that specific heel height could seem deplorable. But as society lives longer and more health conscious, we could possibly see more of a shift to lower heels. Remember the early days of the minimalist, ethereal fashion movement, early-adopting designers launched collections of utopian comfort-function-fit clothing that would definitely be popular fashions for something like the Divergent movie series. Anyways, we now see popular footwear designers like Aquazzura, Malone Souliers and Sophia Webster are adopting alternatively shorter heel versions (flats, kitten heels, mules, sandals, etc.) of many of their most coveted high heel designs.
The beloved ‘Posh Spice’ and designer herself, Victoria Beckham, has even begun to turn away from her constant sky-high stilettos as we all noted in 2016. Notorious for her former near hatred for flats, Mrs. Beckham has had an obvious change of heart as she’s now sporting sneakers as opposed to stilettos these days and including shorter heeled shoes in her ready-to-wear collections. Back in 2016, Beckham, 41, told The Telegraph, “I just can’t do heels anymore. At least not when I’m working,” a new interview. So, the questions remain. Was work the only factor in the drastic shift? Did constant heel wearing begin to put a strain on her health? I don’t know the answer. But as for me, I want to be walking upright and healthy for as long as possible, so I now consider less strenuous footwear. Anything that could possibly hinder my future quality of life is worth changing.
We now know that heels aren’t all what they’re cracked up to be. So, what can we do to change our health risks? We should now explore the world of flats: ballet, sneakers, and minimalist shoes. Personally, I’ve started to listen more to my body and wear heels in moderation.
And since we can’t completely shake our love of heels, we should be more considerate as to the materials of the shoes that we buy. Forefoot flexibility, shock absorption, and a roomy toe box are just a few key characteristics when considering your next pair. Heels with rubber soles offer these. It’s a wonder too because before I began my research, my favorite pair of heels, to this day, have super flexible, rubber soles. I can walk in them for such long periods and move around with ease. So, I’d definitely recommend you look for shoes like those.
What are your thoughts on high heels as it relates to your health? Are you willing to adjust your style to spare your body of potential health risks?