Lions, Tigers, and High Heels, Oh My!



A recent NY Times Well Blog discussed the dangers of high heels based on an Australian study that compared the differences in foot muscle and tendon activation patterns in frequent vs infrequent high heel wearers while walking barefoot


The study found that frequent high heel wearers (40+ hours/week) retained a barefoot walking pattern that mimicked how they used their feet in the heels: toes pointed, with the foot perpetually flexed and shorter strides.  A discussion of the topic began on my Facebook page and I wanted to share a great question and my response.
“I can’t get high heels off fast enough when I have to wear them…but what about my most favorite, comfy pair of Nike ’shocks’…that have a bit of a heel in the ’shock’ part meant for running. Is that gonna mess with my tendon? I kinda like that it helps me stay on the balls of my feet, where flip flops/flats keep my weight on my heels (which probably messes with my posture?) Just curious about other shoes other than extreme heels…”  Sydney
Thanks for the question, Sydney.
I think one of the take aways from the study is that these ladies wore heels…A LOT. They embedded that muscular pattern with heavy heel use, so that even when the heels came off the muscular pattern remained. The “normals/controls” absolutely have occasionally worn heels in their history, they’re chicks. So wearing them occasionally won’t create that same kind of muscular adaption. Same goes for your shoes (Nike Shocks). You should mix up your shoewear, so that no one way of using your muscles develops (like the frequent heel wearers).
Here’s the other reality check-saying you can’t ever where heels is unrealistic! We all have the occasional red carpet to walk, bridesmaid outfit to don, etc. So the key in whatever shoe you choose- Nike Shocks or bare feet- is to be able to maintain your alignment- keep that bum untucked and ribs living over the pelvis. The slight heel in your Nike shoes has the capacity to gentle lean you out of your heels so you can keep an untucked bum, and better engagement of your pelvic floor and the rest of the core (see the video below).
But even a slight heel will pitch some folks forward enough that they over-correct with a posterior rib cage shift or tucked bum to keep their balance. So the key, in any type of footwear from flip flops to stilettos is to be aware of how you are holding your posture in them. You have to be in charge!! If you can’t hold your alignment, make a change in your footwear. But if you can hold that alignment for your big debut on the red carpet, than I say- You go girl!!
Contributed by Julie Wiebe, PT

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