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How to manage High Heel Pain

Do you suffer from high heel pain?

Whether it be the Spring Carnival, the festive season, or just for everyday wear, high heels have a marked impact on how women feel and stand.  Originally developed to give women a taller and more slender appearance, as physiotherapists we often see a range of conditions that are influenced by wearing high heels.

High heels push body weight forward leading to a significant change in standing posture.  This change in posture leads to misalignment of your spine’s natural curves and increases pressure through the low back, hips, knees, ankle, forefoot.


Changes around the body:

Wearing heels changes spinal alignment significantly, resulting in an increased lumbar lordosis (curve in the lower part of your spine).  This increased lordosis can lead to joint stress between vertebrae and the disc and increase likelihood of low back pain.  Women that already experience low back pain should be mindful of wearing heels as this can be detrimental to their current symptoms.

Additionally, heels also change the weight distribution around the hips and knees with some studies indicating that heels can increase the pressure around the knee by 26% resulting in degeneration or pain around the knee cap or knee joint.

Specifically around the foot and ankle, heels increase the pressure on the bones of the forefoot including the metatarsals.  Just changing the height of the heel can dramatically increase the pressure placed through the foot.  A 5 cm increase in heel height can increase force in the forefoot from 22% to 76%.  Increased force and pressure of body weight on the forefoot can lead to conditions including hammertoes, bunions, Morton’s neuromas, corns and calluses.

Additionally, the achilles and calf muscle is altered when wearing heels.  This shortening of the achilles tendon can lead to tendon injuries or increased risk of rupture of the tendon.  For women who regularly run, this can not only decrease speed but also increase the risk of injuries associated with running.

What can I do at home?

In order to reduce pain associated with heels, listen to your body!  If you experience pain when wearing heels consider speaking to your physiotherapist.  Being mindful of the height of heels and how often you wear them can make a significant difference.  As a physiotherapist, my advice is to choose your heels wisely.  Keep your higher heels for particular occasions and choose a lower heel where you can.  After a night or day in heels, try and spend a few days in flats or even barefoot if possible.  If high heels are part of your every day attire, try wearing a pair of flats to and from work, and slip on your heels when necessary.  When buying heels be mindful of the height as well as the slope (pitch of the shoe).  Heels that have a gradual pitch allow for better weight distribution.


If you do wear heels regularly, consider adding calf stretches as part of your daily exercise regime.  Try to do these stretches at least four to five times a day holding each for 15 seconds.  Remember, you don’t have to experience pain when you wear heels!  If you think you may be experiencing pain associated with wearing heels, call us at Malvern East Physiotherapy today!