High Heels—High Risk
Are you still routinely teetering on high heels to reach the heights of fashion? If so, you’re certainly not alone. Fancy shoes have always been popular—and expensive. But in recent years, heels have inched higher and higher. Some shoes seem designed to propel women into the stratosphere. Any woman who’s spent a day in high heels knows they can be hard on the legs, ankles, and feet. After all, they force the feet—and much of the rest of the body—into unnatural positions, in the name of fashion, sex appeal, and vanity.
So much so, that in the decade between 2002 and 2012, injuries related to wearing high heels doubled, according to research conducted by scientists at the University of Alabama at Birmingham. Yes, there are really scientists who study such things. Who knew? It’s actually something of a hot topic. A 2003 survey, for example, discovered that a majority of American women (62%) report wearing 2-inch or higher heels. And not just for red carpet events, either. They reported wearing such footwear regularly. That amounts to a whole lot of calf and toe strain, ladies.
The frequency and severity of high-heel-related injuries is so great, investigators recommend that women take steps (no pun intended) to alleviate their risk of injury. One recommendation is to be aware of one’s surroundings, and to wear appropriate shoes for a given occasion. The implication is that women surely don’t have to wear these high-risk stilts for every occasion. Sometimes, researchers seem to suggest, you might want to sacrifice style for safety.
"Although high-heeled shoes might be stylish, from a health standpoint, it would be worthwhile for those interested in wearing high-heeled shoes to understand the risks and the potential harm that precarious activities in high-heeled shoes can cause," said lead investigator Gerald McGwin, Ph.D., of the UAB School of Public Health.
The problem is not just about immediate potential injuries from twisted ankles, strains, sprains and even fractures. Some of the risk is long-term. Other scientists have documented high-heel-related changes in the muscles of the legs, and the nerves that control them. Eventually, these changes can lead to musculoskeletal disorders well down the runway of life.
Remarkably, a significant number of injuries didn’t have anything to do with navigating city sidewalks. “We…noted that nearly half the injuries occurred in the home, which really supports the idea of wearing the right footwear for the right occasion and setting. Also, to reduce the time of exposure, we recommend that those wearing heels be aware of how often and for how long they wear them,” said McGwin. So, no more wearing the Louboutins to dust the furniture, okay ladies?
University of Alabama at Birmingham. "Injury rates from wearing high-heeled shoes have doubled." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 21 May 2015. .