Use these exercises to wear your favorite high heels without painPretty much everyone knows that wearing high heels causes high heel pain. Even if you feel fine the first few times these heels will, at some paint, make your feet start to hurt. So quitting these mini torture devices would be a good idea. (But here's what's NOT a good idea: spraying your feet with pain-numbing lidocaine to get through the night. All that accomplishes is getting you to spend more time than is safe in your stilettos. And that's a big concern, as you're about to learn.)

Here's the problem with wearing high heels. You have to balance most of your weight on your forefoot. And when you do so, your heel can't help you keep that balance. This unnatural posture raises your risk for a lot of problems. First of which is falling and hurting yourself. You'd be surprised how many women I see with sprained ankles because of their high heels. 

But the short-term risks are just the start. Today, we'll also explore high heel pain that pops up down the road. And then, just because I'm nice, I'll share some tips for making it hurt less when you HAVE to wear your favorite Louboutins. 

Inch by Inch: How Your Heel Height Impacts Pain 

Much of the reason high heels cause problems for your feet is due to the imbalance they create, placing abnormal amounts of pressure on the front of your feet (potentially leading to bunions) pinching your toes and causing them to grip to maintain balance (possibly resulting in a hammertoe problem); and all while shortening your Achilles tendon, paving the way for tendinitis problems.

Since pressure is one of the main culprits when it comes to damage caused by wearing heels, it’s important to understand that the higher the shoe, the more pressure you’re putting on your fore-foot. 

For example, when you wear 1-inch heels, 22% of your body’s pressure lands on the front of your foot

Go up an inch: that percentage shoots up to 57%. And by the time you get to a 3-inch stiletto, 76% of your body weight pressure is being absorbed by your fore-foot…ouch!

The numbers make my advice all the more clear, if you MUST wear heels, do so infrequently and keep the heel height beneath 2 inches whenever possible. Anything higher than that is, quite simply, too much of a load for your poor feet to bear. Not to mention causing you major problems later in life.


High Heels and Osteoarthritis

According to a study in The Journal of orthopaedic research, women who wore high heels have a high risk of for osteoarthritis of the knees. Sound bad? That's because it is! 

Osteoarthritis is a chronic, progressive condition. (That means it gets worse over time.) You get this form of arthritis when your joints wear down. And, because wearing heels puts a lot of pressure on your knees and hips, it can speed up wear and tear on those joint.

Now, it's not all bad news with high heels and arthritis. According to this study, you may be ok with a low, kitten heel. Because wearing higher heels for longer periods increased your risk for lasting joint damage. But short bursts in low heels didn't do as much damage. 

High Heel Posture Problems

Standing in high heels doesn't just throw off your balance. It also changes your posture. Permanently, if you wear heels long enough. As soon as you slip on your Jimmy Choos, your hips start swaying as you walk. Sure, that looks cute. But it ain't great for your back. Or the rest of you. 

What's the real danger here? The longer your bidy fights to stay balanced in heels, the more starin you put on your joints. We already covered that. But it also makes your ankle, leg and back muscles work overtime. And, if you wear heels too often, that adds up to major damge. The results? Bad posture as well as knee, hip and back pain. 

Of course, those are just the secondary casualties. The main problem with wearing high heels lands on your feet. 

Foot Damage from Stilettoes 

When you wear pointy-toed Sam Edelmans for too long, you can change the actual structure of your feet. That's why bunions, calluses, ingrown toenails and hammertoes are all linked to wearing high heels. And guess what? These foot deformities don't just look bad in cute Tory Burch flip flops/ They're also a serious health concern. 

All of these problems cause plenty of foot pain. Many are progressive, and will get worse without treatment. Worse still? They can also trigger bone damage in your feet. Which could make it more difficult to walk and move through your daily tasks. 

Ok, I'm guessing we've hammered home the dangers of wearing high heels by now. And I'm also guessing you're wondering. Is it ever ok to wear high heels? Well, don't faint from shock here. But the answer is, actually. Yes...with a few precautions from your Houston podiatrist, that is!

Safer Ways to Rock Stilettoes 

Lower, chunky high heels reduce high heel foot pain

If you want to take some heels out of your closet, here's how to do it safely. 

– Keep heel height under three inches

– Look for chunky heels instead of pointy ones

– Don't wear heels for more than a few hours. And don't wear them every day. 
Now, here's a TikTok hack that many people find helpful. They advocate spraying your feet with lidocaine to numb them before slipping on your favorite stilettos. Of course, this can work--the spray means you won't feel anything, including high heel pain. 
But I know that's a big problem. What if you drop something on your toes and don't realize you're badly hurt? Or what if your numb feet cause you to step oddly, and you stumble and twist your ankle? There are so many potential dangers, that you're better off just following MY rules for high heel comfort. 

Still, even when you do follow these rules, you should still give your feet TLC after the heels come off.  So, to help keep high heel pain at bay, try incorporating these 3 exercise tips from Health Magazine into your regular fitness routine.

Seated calf stretch with resistance band

Recovery from a long day or evening in heels starts with calf stretches, as it reduces the risk of your calf muscle shortening.  Start in a seated position with your legs extended, heels on the floor. Wrap a resistance band around the ball of one foot and pull the band toward you, keeping the leg straight. Hold for 30 seconds; then switch sides. Repeat three times.

Standing calf raises

To avoid a sprain from teetering around in stilettos, you have to build up ankle strength. An International Journal of Clinical Practice study found that regularly wearing heels weakens the muscles around your ankles. (It also dramatically worsens your balance). To project your ankle joints, do standing calf raises every day. Stand with your feet hip-distance apart; slowly rise onto the balls of your feet, then lower your heels back to the ground. Do three sets of 20 reps.

Towel scrunches

Heel lovers put a lot of pressure on the small muscles that start and stop below the ankle. One great way to target them involves a paper towel: Place it on the ground and, using only your toes, grab it and release for about 30 seconds. Then switch feet. Repeat three times. This exercise is great for fighting the force of toes being squished into tight, pointy shoes.

Still having foot pain? Contact Houston podiatrist Dr. Andrew Schneider for a complete evaluation. Don't give up on your favorite shoes! We can get you back in them pain-free.