From stilettos, to wedges, or even platforms – we all know how high heels can complement scores of different fashion styles. What is less known are the effects that high heels can have on your spine.
Is cutting out heels from our society altogether realistic? The short answer is no. Plus, no one really wants that to happen.
However, it is important to know when something is negatively affecting our health. Many of us have high pain tolerances and are very good at brushing things off. We can likely find a variety of different excuses as to why our back is in pain after a night of wearing high heels. For example, it’s easy to justify that lower back pain was caused by poor quality sleep.
Today, you will learn the effects of adventuring into the world on high heels, and what you can do to prevent injuries.
A Brief History of High Heels
In the 17th century, it was primarily men who wore high heels. This was typically to show off class and financial status. High heels showed the world that an individual didn’t participate in hard labor, like most commoners.
In the modern world, the focus of high heels has shifted to women. You can usually find them in both professional and recreational capacities. Over 72% of women wear high heels at some point in their life. Wearing them for short distances wouldn’t do much to your body. However, for those that strut long time periods in high heels, it can negatively affect your spine and back.
The Effects of High Heels
Shoes are a fashion choice. They are an essential part of our wardrobes. Especially in the case of wearing fancy outfits, high heels, in particular, are a crucial part of your outfit.
Although high heels have been a part of our society for centuries, that doesn’t mean that they are perfect. Here are several effects that wearing high heels for long periods of time can have on your spine and body.
- Hyperlordotic Spine
Wearing high heels consistently can contribute to a hyperlordotic spine. This is when your spine has too much curvature in areas like the lumbar and cervical. The strain that heels can put on your lower back and legs are the initial cause of this imbalance.
Your body tries to overcompensate for this sometimes painful strain by adjusting its position in an abnormal way. Over time, this can cause the spine to curve and lead to other issues in the future if not addressed.
- Unnatural Hip Alignment
Each person has different balancing skills. High heels put those skills to the test instantly.
If balance is not something that comes naturally to you, walking in high heels can be extremely challenging. Over time, walking when completely imbalanced can lead to unnatural hip alignment. Again, our body does its best to overcompensate for imbalances. Our hips are no different.
The human hips are the bridge between our legs and torso. When there are imbalances along our shoulders and back, our hips try to anchor any unnatural swaying motions that we are experiencing. This can eventually lead to the unnatural alignment of the hips.
Wearing high heels consistently while in pain can eventually lead to Scoliosis. While a hyperlordotic spine typically has curvature in one area of the back (lower back or neck), scoliosis is a curvature in multiple sections of the spine. This usually appears as an “S” shape.
Certain cases of scoliosis can be minor and hardly noticeable. Others are more visible. Scoliosis can also be very painful, or very subtle. For the cases that are subtle, it’s important to pay attention to how you are feeling. As mentioned previously, it’s easy to brush off minor pain that we experience.
Similar to the previous two examples, our body is consistently attempting to counteract an imbalance we are experiencing. If you are swaying consistently while wearing high heels, there’s a chance that it could lead to injury when not corrected.
Actionable Tips When Wearing High Heels
Don’t overdo it! When wearing high heels for the first time, start small. You don’t need to kill your feet, ankles, and spine with 6-inch heels your first time.
Also, plan your day or evening out. Packing a pair of flats to go with you can be a lifesaver if you start to feel any type of pain. Don’t feel ashamed or shy about switching to flats if you are experiencing any type of pain.
Lastly, practice makes perfect. Not everyone suffers from a spinal injury after wearing high heels. Practice walking in them, and work on standing as straight as possible. Many negative effects are the result of imbalances while walking. If you notice that you are swaying a lot while wearing high heels, practice walking along a hand railing to assist you. This can be a great way to start slow and improve your balance while wearing heels.
We all want to look our best. Oftentimes, shoes can make or break an outfit. As good as high heels can look, you shouldn’t sacrifice your health or well-being to simply look good. Be aware of how your body and spine are feeling when wearing any type of high heel. Practice, plan out your day, and start slow. These tips can help you improve your balance while walking in high heels and avoid potential injuries later on.