Shoes have been deemed as an accessory to your wardrobe by society and the insurmountable influence of the fashion industry. Your choice of shoes provides you an opportunity to express yourself in a subtle or grandiose manner. The choice of color, material, style, and even heel height are deliberate picks that tell a story about you.
Most of us have not considered that how we express ourselves on the outside impacts how we feel on the inside. Do wearing high heels every day impact long-term physical health? This is not a question that you find yourself asking too often. However, it's a question that if asked might save you from experiencing new or additional discomfort.
We are often more concerned with fashion rather than function. We do not take into account the toll routinely wearing high-heels will take on our body. 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 potential risk for developing back pain. Various aspects of the musculoskeletal system have been studied in association with wearing high heels. However, the research as it relates to the spine is minimal.
What we do know is that 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.
One research study has shown that when wearing high heels for short periods of time, the upper body, lumbar spine, and pelvis are negatively affected. 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. Dr. Chetan Patel, renowned spine surgeon and Medical Director at AdventHealth Medical Group Spine Health at Altamonte, recommends avoiding wearing high heels whenever possible. Dr. Patel further advises alternating high heels with other flat- soled shoes.
Do not just listen to your feet when making your shoe selections. Listen to your spine; it's holding it all together.
Lasich, L. (2010). High Heels and Flip Flops cause Back Pain. Retrieved August 03, 2011, from Spine Universe: http://www.spineuniverse.com/conditions/back-pain/high-heels-flip-flops-cause-back-pain
Opila, K., Wagner, S., Schiowitz, S., and Chen, J. (1988). Postural Alignment in Barefoot and High-Heeled Stance. Spine , 13 (5), 542-547