Are High Heels Worth the Cost to your MSK System?

Date:  March 9, 2016


Are High Heels Worth the Cost to your MSK System?

Pain in legYou may love the look of high heels. However, those sleek heels could cause you physical problems which may not be worth the extra style. In fact, it has been reported that 88% of women are wearing the wrong size shoes – often compromising comfort for style or availability. Unfortunately, compromising health for fashion can take a toll on our bodies.

Higher heels may mean bigger problems. It is estimated that 3-, 2-, and 1-inch heels would place 76%, 57% and 22% more pressure on your forefoot respectively1. Wearing high heels regularly can have a long-term impact on the structure and function of your feet, but can also affect other parts of your body. So before you slip on those pumps, you may want to consider a few things:

  • Wearing high heels for longer than three hours a day can actually shorten the length of the Achilles tendon2
  • High heels may be a risk factor for developing knee pain as the body weight is shifted forward which takes the hip and spine out of alignment2
  • High heels are known to be a risk factor for osteoarthritis, ankle sprains, heel pain and the development of corns or bunions2
  • Avoid wearing heels more than 2 inches in height2
  • Wearing heels three or more times a week led to harmful muscle imbalances which could increase the risk for ankle sprains and other injuries3

These may come as a surprise to many, especially to those who enjoy extra height. If you aren’t ready to kick your heels to the curb, consider the following four exercises to help reduce pain and discomfort4:

  1. Standing calf stretch: Place the ball of your right foot on the edge of a stair. Keep your right leg straight and let your heel fall backward off of the step. Hold for 30 seconds, then repeat with the left foot.
  2. Hip-flexor stretch: Step backward with your right leg, both toes facing forward. Bend both knees and tuck your pelvis so your hip bones move toward your ribs. Feel a stretch in the top of the right thigh and hip. Hold for 30 seconds, then repeat with the left leg.
  3. Posterior tucks: Lie on your back, legs bent and feet on the floor. Tuck your pelvis so your hip bones curl toward your ribs. Feel your lower back gently move towards the mat. Don’t force your back down and engage the muscles between your pubic bone and belly button to initiate the tucking motion. Try to imagine you are putting on a tight pair of jeans.
  4. Toe spreading: Spread your toes five to 10 times. Try to make each toe spread evenly.

Also, talk to your chiropractor about how to prevent injury and alleviate pain or dysfunction.

1Madlen Davies, “How to wear heels Healthily,” Daily Mail, June 3, 2015,
2Advance Healthcare Network, “Be Kind to Your Feet,”
3Madlen Davies, “How to wear heels Healthily,” Daily Mail, June 3, 2015,
4Kathleen Trotter, “4 exercise to ease high heel pain,” The Globe and Mail, July 10, 2013.