When I see a lady wearing high heeled shoes my first impression is pain and discomfort. However fashion tends to override pain, no matter how drastic the consequences are. Research has shown that there are health hazards and injuries related to extensive periods of time in high heeled shoes but how serious? How do our biomechanics change when we slip on the stilettos for a night out? And could there ever be comfortable high heeled shoe?
We all know why women wear high heeled shoes; it gives us a sense of longer legs, elevated stature, and of course to make our busts and buttocks more prominent through changing our stature and the way we walk.
When you wear high heeled shoes, research has shown that there is a presence of relatively high loads in the forefoot region when compared to wearing low heel shoes or going barefoot. When there is an increase in force there is an increase in pressure under the foot which is correlated with an increase in heel height. Therefore the bigger the heel, the higher the pressure underneath the foot. Consequently the risk factors include; foot injuries, foot pain, knee pain, back pain and so forth. However science has indeed come up with a design that can make high heel shoes comfortable. The parameters of the footed govern the level of comfort to a significant extent. Research has shown that the shoe wearer’s comfort is known to be related to the shape of the footbed of a shoe. However manufacturers have decided to adopt their own guidelines towards the footbed design.
Research has shown that the optimal heel wedge angle or a range of angles that can be considered comfortable at a heel height of 75mm. Research has shown when the heel wedge angle increases, the percentage of body weight acting on the rear foot decreases while the percentage of body weight acting on the forefoot increases. An increase in heel height increased the maximum peak pressure under the metatarsal heads in the forefoot, decreased the time to maximum peak pressure under the metatarsal heads, and increased the rate of loading to the metatarsels during early support. There is an increase in stress to the various soft tissues in the foot whilst walking in high heel shoes which can contribute to deleterious orthopaedic changes.
It is a good idea to stretch out the gastroc/soleus after spending a decent amount of time in high heels. Stretching time can vary in length and stretch depending on how deep you like it but we recommend working your way up to 60 seconds. We advise repetition of at least 3 times for each stretch. Stretches include heel raises and dip stretches. Once he stretches are completed ice can be applied to the Achilles and gastroc/soleus area.
Massage therapists can work with the soft tissue of the muscle to help release pain, tension and muscle soreness. Massage can be utilised alongside stretching to gain better and long lasting results. Foot mobilisation can also be employed in order to loosen the surrounding muscles of the feet and ankle.
To conclude footwear materials vary and may influence foot pressure. Studies have found that wearing high heeled shoes results in load shifting from the heel region towards the central and medial forefoot. In order to remain comfortable in high heeled shoes the shape of the footbed in the design of the heel is important. Also a wedge angle at 18 or 16degrees as it portrayed the lowest overall peak pressure with the percentage of body weight acting on the midfoot region and the forefoot region are approximately equal.