Do High Heels Harm Your Spine?

A woman crosses the street wearing high heels.
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Boots, stilettos, wedges, you name it — shoes have been deemed an accessory to your wardrobe by society and the influence of the fashion industry. Your choice of shoes provides you an opportunity to express yourself in subtle or flashier ways. The choice of color, material, style and even heel height are deliberate picks that tell a story about you.

Most of us haven’t considered that how we express ourselves on the outside impacts how we feel on the inside. Does everyday heel wear impact long-term physical health? This probably isn’t a question that you find yourself asking too often. However, it's one that might save you from experiencing new or additional discomfort.

Fashion or Function?

It’s common to be more concerned with fashion rather than function. Many don’t take into account the toll routinely wearing heels will take on their bodies. The simple process of getting dressed in the morning has the potential to create significant musculoskeletal problems later in life.

High heels force you to alter the alignment of your spine, putting you at risk for developing back pain. Various aspects of the musculoskeletal system have been studied in association with wearing high heels. According to the American Osteopathic Association (AOA), the plantar fascia in the foot connects to the calf muscle, which, in turn, connects to the hamstring. “The hamstrings attach to the pelvis and low back, which is why wearing high heels can make your back ache along with your feet,” says the AOA.

High heels, based on construction, alter your spine's natural alignment. Frequent disruption of alignment places uneven wear and tear on your vertebral discs, joints and back ligaments.

Listen to Your Body

You know your body. If something doesn’t feel right, it probably isn’t. One research study has shown that wearing high heels for even short periods of time negatively affects the upper body, lumbar spine and pelvis. This study also suggests that wearing high heels for long periods of time can potentially cause the spine to become hyperlordotic or swayback. This condition can be painful due to added strain on the lower back and legs.

Proper posture or spine alignment increases your ability to maintain spine health. AdventHealth recommends avoiding high heels whenever possible. Alternating high heels with other flat-soled shoes can be a more realistic alternative for heel lovers. Stock up on cute ballet flats and your spine will thank you.

Don’t just listen to your feet when making shoe selections. Listen to your spine; it's holding it all together. At AdventHealth, we believe in spine care that treats the whole person. Learn more about caring for your spine.

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