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Price of Being a Fashionista I didn't watch Sex in the City, but I know the women on the show are fashionistas who wouldn't leave home without towering high heels.

If you're also addicted to your heels, know that you're changing the way your feet and calves work. That's why women feel foot pain when they kick off their heels and walk flat-footed.

A new study looked at women twenty to fifty years old who wore at least a two-inch heel regularly for more than two years, and compared them with a group that did not wear heels.

Wearing high heels shortens the distance your calf muscles stretch when you walk. So, researchers expected to find smaller calf muscles in high heel wearers since the muscles don't have to work as hard.

Yet, when they used magnetic resonance imaging or MRI scans, they were surprised to find both groups had the same sized calf muscles.

The difference was in the length of the muscle fibers. The high heel-wearers had shorter muscle fibers by thirteen percent.

The effect is that these muscles are less efficient and produce less force than the control group. But why would this cause foot pain?

The reason is in the Achilles tendon, which attaches the calf muscle to the heel. MRI scans showed the Achilles tendons in high heel wearers were thicker and stiffer. The tendon had adapted to help women walk in heels.

But when the heels come off, these stiffer tendons can't stretch as well, pull on the feet and cause pain. So should women who enjoy heels put them away? I think a lot of these women would rather suffer.

No… no… scientists behind this study don't advocate throwing out your stilettos. They merely suggest stretching exercises to help with your foot pain. To check out these exercises*, go to our website.

*Disclaimer: When doing these exercises, if pain persists, you should immediately seek further consultation from your physician. Also, you may benefit from a Physical Therapy consultation.

 

For more information…

On muscle, tendon, and high heels
Original science report from Dr. Marco Narici and colleagues at the Manchester Metropolitan University that describes the research supporting this study. Csapo et al. 2010. On muscle, tendon, and high heels. J.Exp. Biol. 213: 2582-2588.
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Down-to-earth research shows the impact of high heels on female legs
Washington Post article that describes the research in general terms based on the original Journal of Experimental Biology report
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Foot Injuries and Disorders
Medline plus site that discusses injuries and disorders of the foot. There is a wide array of links on the site that provide braod coverage of this topic.
For more information…