Overcoming the Challenges of Wearing High Heels

Many women choose to wear high heels – and that’s okay. As a board-certified podiatrist, however, Dr. Kenneth R. Wilhelm cautions women to be smart about it.

Wearing high heels comes with many challenges. Interestingly, “Choose to Challenge” was the theme for this year’s International Women’s Day, celebrated earlier this week on March 8. “A challenged world is an alert world,” say the organizers. Here are some high-heel challenges that should put our Fairfax County patients on high alert:

  • High heels have very little toe room. The toe boxes of high heels are narrow and pointed, two things that actual toes are not. If you spend a lot of time with your toes squeezed into a small space, toe problems will crop up, such as hammertoes, hard corns, and nerve pain. Additionally, if you’ve got an existing condition such as a bunion, spending a lot of time in high heels can make it worse.
  • High heels put your weight on the balls of your feet. Walking on the balls of your feet changes your center of gravity. Your body pitches forward, but other parts of your body try to compensate, putting pressure on your ankles, knees, hips, and back. It’s not uncommon for a podiatrist to trace a patient’s back or neck pain to her feet. Moreover, putting the pressure of your body weight entirely on the balls of your feet can cause chronic metatarsalgia.
  • Prolonged wearing of high heels can shorten your Achilles tendon. The Achilles is the large tendon at the back of your heel connecting your heel to your calf muscle. A shortened Achilles leads to pain when walking barefoot or in flat shoes.
  • High heels can cause instability and lead to dangerous falls. Broken bones and concussions are not out of the question with high heels affecting your balance.

As this year’s International Women’s Day theme says, “Choose to Challenge” yourself to wear high heels intelligently. Don’t wear them every day. When you do wear them, limit your time to a few hours at most. Stick to heels of two inches in height, max. And when you have foot pain that interferes with your daily life, choose Clifton Foot & Ankle Center in Centreville, Virginia. Make an appointment online or call (703) 996-3000.


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