Higher heels, shorter strides

“Walking in high heels changes how women walk, puts strains on muscles, and raises risk of injury.”

We know, we know, don’t we? The bit on discomfort at least. But they are irrisistible wardrobe items. Could that be why we may also be aware but not really taking heed of expert observation that wearing high heels takes a toll on muscles and the pocket book?

According to a scientific study published on Medicinenet, the discomfort of wearing high heels can be explained by the changes in mechanics in the way women walk. They walk with shorter, more forceful strides; more muscles are employed and changes persist even when they wear flats or go barefoot.

Nine women who wear high heels for 40 hours or more per week for two years were compared with ten women who rarely wear heels. This is how the study was conducted:

Women walked at their own pace along a 26-foot, flat walkway while wearing electrodes on their feet and legs to measure muscle activity. The walkway was also equipped with a plate to gauge ground reaction forces, and cameras recorded their gait. Both groups walked down the walkway 10 times in their bare feet. Then the high heel wearers walked it another 10 times in their favorite high heels.

The results showed that the high heel wearers had shorter strides and mostly used their muscles to walk rather than the more efficient combination of muscle and tendon stretching employed by the women who wore flats.

Because their feet were stuck in a flexed, toes-pointed position for so long, the calf muscles of the women who wore high heels had also shortened and were under more strain. For example, the muscle strain rate in high heel wearers was about six times higher than in the other women. 

While I am aware of the toll high heels could take on feet, I did not know there could be changes in the way I walk as well. Aha! a duck and a zombie just came to mind.

Because of my job, wearing high heels is a default. I wish I could sometimes wear flats and jeans like university instructors in the US, but that is not the case in Thailand.

What are your reasons for wearing high heels? What kind of shoes do you wear to social activities? I would love to know.