If You Wear High Heels, You Need to Take These Proactive Steps



By Joy Stephenson-Laws, JD, Founder


Back in April, Norweigan Air got major criticism and pushback for their dress code requiring that their female flight attendants wear high heels as part of their uniform. Apparently, female flight attendants could wear flats once they were flying, however, they were required to wear heels outside of the cabin. For example, when entering or exiting the plane.

The only way a female flight attendant could get out of wearing heels was if she had a medical excuse in the form of a doctor’s note.

And according to one news report, those women with a doctor’s note allowing them to avoid heels had to carry the doctor’s note with them at all times. Moreover, the note had to be updated every six months.

In May, after receiving accusations of being very sexist and unfair to females (note the dress code also required female flight attendants to wear makeup), Norweigan Air terminated this dress code and is now allowing their female flight attendants to wear flats at all times.

Obviously, I was happy to hear that Norweigan Air changed their dress policy. Not just because it was sexist, but also because heels are not exactly the most comfortable or, more importantly, the most healthy shoes for people to be wearing.

Sure, at times high heels may complete the perfect outfit or make you feel sexy. But if you are a chronic high heel wearer, know that doing this may cause some health issues for you.

High heels can feel and look like a great idea, but they can actually damage the structures of your feet — and other body parts as well,” according to one report.

(“Heels can even reshape the calf muscles and tendons, shortening them so that women who wear heels often may find it uncomfortable to walk flat-footed,“ (Live Science)).

A podiatrist (foot doctor) referenced in the report says, “High heels cause a myriad of problems for the wearer, not just in the feet, but also in the ankles, knees and even the back.”

In addition to this, one podiatrist says, “Heels cause the body weight to be transferred to the ball of the foot, leading to increased pain in this area, called metatarsalgia.”

Having all of this weight on the balls of your feet may also cause pinched nerves (neuromas) and stress fractures. Ouch! And to make matters worse, wearing high heels causes you to lean forward, causing your knees and hips to shift forward. As a result, your back has to “try to adjust by extending backward, which can really jack it up,” according to the report mentioned earlier. 

And if you’ve ever had back pain, you know that it’s some of the worst pain you can have and really affects your quality of life.

Still not convinced to hang up the old heels every now and then?

Well if I told you that wearing heels for prolonged periods of time may cause you to have ingrown toenails, that may be all the convincing you need!

Live Science reports that many podiatrists say wearing high-heeled shoes is one of the most common causes of ingrown toenails. Ingrown toenails essentially occur when a corner or edge of the toenail grows into the skin. As you can probably imagine, having an ingrown toenail can be painful. And in some cases, the toenail may become infected and have to be removed. 

Perhaps what’s most concerning about wearing high heels for long periods of time is that it may increase the risk of developing osteoarthritis. A study from 2010 looked at three different heel heights, flat, 2 inches and 3.5 inches, on how they affected women when walking. The researchers found that the higher the heel, the more compression on the inside (medial side) of the knee.

“This means that prolonged wearing and walking in heels could, over time, contribute to joint degeneration and knee osteoarthritis," said one of the lead researchers in this report discussing the study.

If you love your high heels, this all doesn’t mean that you should never wear them. But it does mean that you should be proactive and wear them within reason. 

“The key to wearing heels in general is to do it in moderation — in both time (three hours or less) and frequency, alternating in wearing them with more supportive shoes," says the podiatrist in the report mentioned earlier. 

Other proactive steps you can take?

  • Stretch your leg muscles before and after you wear high heels. Stretching helps lengthen muscles, which, in turn, may reduce the risk of muscle spasms and cramps that can occur with wearing heels.
  • In addition to stretching, make sure to exercise. Strengthening certain muscles, such as the hamstrings and glutes, may give you more stability, support and balance when you wear heels. You also want to maintain a healthy weight. If you are overweight and wear high heels, this puts even more of a strain on the balls of your feet. Read here for stretches and exercises recommended for high heel wearers. 
  • Avoid the pointed toe. Although they may be fashionable, avoid the closed toe heels that come to a triangular point at the toes. These tend to scrunch the toes together, causing more pressure, swelling and pain.
  • Remember, good nutrition goes a long way - from your head to your toes! Eating a nutrient-rich diet is key, in my opinion, to all health-related matters. Several studies have shown how a healthy diet can improve cognitive function and delay the aging of the brain, help protect you from heart disease and more. And this is because nutrients, such as vitamins and minerals, help combat inflammation. Pain is also caused by inflammation, and wearing heels can be, well, painful. And as mentioned, prolonged heel wearing can increase the risk of osteoarthritis (which is inflammation). So you want to fight inflammation and protect your muscles, joints and bones by eating plenty of healthy foods, such as fresh fruits and vegetables. Natural, whole foods have anti-inflammatory properties and are full of nutrients, such as magnesium, potassium, vitamin C and many more, that may help prevent as well as delay the progression of issues such as osteoarthritis.  

You can wear high heels, just don’t wear them or yourself out!


Enjoy your healthy life! 


The pH professional health care team includes recognized experts from a variety of healthcare and related disciplines, including physicians, attorneys, nutritionists, nurses and certified fitness instructors. This team also includes the members of the pH Medical Advisory Board, which constantly monitors all pH programs, products and services. To learn more about the pH Medical Advisory Board, click here.


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