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Are High Heels Really That Bad for Your Feet?

A woman wearing a pair of high heels caressing her ankle.

Have you ever heard that actually, high heels are bad for your feet? If that was true, then why do so many women still wear them and why do so many designers still make them? Are expensive designer high heels better for your feet than the cheap ones you can find at the discount store?

<a href="https://www.self.com/story/what-wearing-high-heels-does-to-your-feet” target=”_blank” rel=”noopener noreferrer”>What really happens to your feet if you wear heels all the time? Does height matter? There’s a lot of misinformation and a lot of stuff people don’t know about high heels and how they affect your feet. Are you ready to find out the truth about what heels are really doing to you?

The Pain of Being Beautiful

The truth is, women are conditioned to accept pain. It’s a well-known adage that beauty is pain. Women pluck hairs out of their body, pour hot wax on their sensitive areas, squeeze their bodies into shapewear and walk around on little stilts on a regular basis. Women are used to accepting pain simply because they are women. So if those gorgeous, expensive shoes hurt your feet, you probably just slap on a smile and wear them anyway.

But no pain should ever be ignored. Pain is your body’s way of telling you that something is wrong. And if you wear high heels regularly, something is definitely going to end up being wrong with your feet. The short answer to this question is yes. High heels are really bad for your feet. And all high heels are bad, no matter which designer label they have on them or how well-designed they may be.

It’s the downward slope that makes high heels so bad for your feet. Your weight gets shifted forward to the ball of the foot when your body is designed to be supported by your heels. That’s a design created by a couple of million years of evolution, and that’s really how you’re supposed to walk.

If people were meant to walk on the balls of their feet, the body would be designed that way. Essentially, wearing high heels puts weight in the wrong places and forces you to change your natural stride. Of course, that can’t really be good for your feet.

A woman wearing a pair of red high-heeled shoes with her black leather pants.

Wearing high heels misaligns your entire skeleton. This leads to hip, leg, and back pain. You’re putting pressure on your toes, which can lead to several different problems. You can experience hammertoes, ingrown toenails, and unsightly bunions from wearing high heels. You may get heel spurs, which can be extremely painful. And in time, you may get arthritis in your heels and toes.

Over time, wearing heels can even shorten your tendons. The Achilles tendon in particular doesn’t get stretched out and ends up becoming shorter over time when you routinely wear heels. Eventually, you may even feel strange or uncomfortable while wearing flats because your tendons have actually changed and they’re no longer suited to a natural, regular walking stride.

You may also get the “pump bump,” a knot at the back of the heel. This is just as unsightly as bunions, which are bony protrusions on the side of the foot near the base of the big toe. High heels may make your legs look awesome now…but they’re going to make your feet look misshapen later.

Which Shoes Actually Work?

A woman sitting on a couch choosing which high-heeled shoes to wear.

Okay, so all high heels are bad. However, not all high heels are equally as bad. When you can, look for platform heels that lift up the rest of your foot as well as your heel. It’s the downward slope of high heels that makes them damaging to your feet. Anything that can lessen that slope is going to be better for your feet.

You can also wear thicker heels, rather than skinny stilettos. Chunkier heels give your feet more support.

Try to avoid the super pointy toes. Your feet need room to naturally spread out. Pointed toes don’t give your feet enough room and may even pinch your toes. That’s definitely not something you want to do to your feet on a regular basis.

Make sure your heels fit. If your feet are sliding around in there, you’re more likely to get blisters on your skin and you clearly aren’t getting the right support.

Preventing Problems

A woman wearing a pair of red high-heeled shoes laying down on a couch.

You’re planning on wearing heels anyway, right? Lots of women know exactly how damaging high heels can be and still choose to wear them. High heels are fashionable, they’re pretty and they make your legs look great, so nobody can blame you for choosing to deal with some future foot problems for the pleasure of living fashionably today. But if you’re going to do it, then go ahead and do some other stuff to try and help your feet out a little, too.

Regular stretching can actually help your feet stay healthier even if you insist on wearing shoes they hate. Place a book that’s about an inch thick on the ground. Stand up, take off your shoes, and place the ball of your foot on the book. Let your heel rest on the ground. Bend forward at the waist and move down, trying to grab the toes on the book with your hand. Hold for 30 seconds. Switch feet and do the stretch on the other side. Do this about three times with each foot at least once a day.

At the end of every day, massage your feet and your calves and stretch out your feet and legs. You can do all this in less than 10 minutes, so don’t skip it and don’t make excuses. You can avoid a ton of future problems if you take this simple step, or at least lessen the effects of those problems.

You should also change heel heights. Don’t wear 4-inch heels three days in a row. Switch out heel heights so that your feet aren’t constantly forced into the same sloping angle.

Slip out of your heels when you can and move your feet around. Stretch your toes out and roll your feet around on your ankle. When you can, choose supportive flats and sneakers. Do what you can to take care of your feet because yes, it’s really bad to wear high heels. We know you’re going to do it anyway. So do what you can to wear them the right way.

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