Ladies! The myths of wearing high heels! Killer High Heels – By Matthew Taylor, Physio4Life Senior Physiotherapist

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Killer high heels!!

‘High heels ruin your back’

‘High heels are responsible for changing the shape of your spine’

There has been a long association between high heels and lower back pain and as you can see above it’s a pretty negative association. I’m sure people will offer there ‘opinion’ regarding how footwear can effect your back.

I just wonder how much of it is really justified, clinically I don’t really see a direct relationship, but I can see how the stresses and strains on the lower limb come about from wearing maybe slightly impractical heels all day, which could cause mechanical changes. The question is can they be directly blamed for causing Lower back pain? Let’s look at some of the research and not opinion, that maybe feeding this potentially unfair hype. Is this information really based on any facts or just some pretty bold statements?

I have had lots of woman, no men to date(!), complaining that they have been advised to wear flat shoes as high heels are the cause of their lower back pain. My immediate response is, did it change your pain? There usual response is ‘I’m not really sure, but now I’m terrified of wearing heels because I’m worried a maybe damaging my spine’ There is lots of misinformation out there thanks to google and everybody’s personal opinion or views.

Conversely, I have heard from patients finding that high heels have actually relieved their lower back discomfort and of course for some lower limb injuries wearing a heel actually offloads tissue and is in fact recommended in the short- term!

I do unfortunately have to say though, that’s it’s not all good news on the high heel front, high heels can increase your chances of getting foot related problems and the mechanics of having your heel so high to your toes invariably leads to overloading of the joints and soft tissue of your foot and toes. But we aren’t talking about foot injuries so we will gloss over that…….

Ok so delving a little deeper in to the research…

BS Russell2010 did a thorough review and analysis on all the medical literature on this subject, thankfully saving me lots of time and effort. The interesting thing is that the literature states that high heels do not cause back pain or increase the curvature of the spine. Because it is so common for woman to wear heels and lower back pain is so prevalent that it is very difficult to identify the actual causal relationships between the two i.e. would you have gotten lower back pain anyway regardless of if you were wearing heels or not? Of course it is plausible that if you hurt your lower back, the cause of that pain could be many things and it’s not unrealistic that wearing high heels could possibly exacerbate the symptoms, but cannot be blamed for the pain in the first place.

So really the take home from this is you can wear high heels with confidence, you are more likely to get foot pain than back pain, but like the age old adage states ‘everything in moderation’ or ‘too much of a good thing’ try to be sensible with your foot wear, don’t go for ridiculously high heels or if you do try to get balance between fashion and common sense, if there is such a thing?

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