Research News: Avoiding High Heels’ Hurt


It seems that every year or so an irksome study pops up reminding us that though two-, three-, and four-inch heels are doing our legs and glutes a slew of visual favors, they’re essentially doing a style-conscious demolition job on our muscle, bone, and back health. The latest comes from British researchers who found that women who wore high heels daily for years experienced chronic leg and foot discomfort—even when standing flat-footed on the floor. The reasons are no surprise to anyone who’s reached the end of a day walking on tiptoe in Miu Mius and felt as if she needed physical therapy or a drink or both: “When your feet are flexed all day, your calf muscles shorten and tighten, your Achilles tendon thickens, and the muscle on the front of your leg lengthens and weakens,” says Joe Dowdell, founder and co-owner of Peak Performance gym in New York City. The result is often shin splits or an altered gait due to the body’s attempt to compensate for fixed muscles.

In a face-off between fierce news and fierce heels, however, the shoe typically wins. The issue becomes pain prevention as opposed to drastic wardrobe shift. Dowdell suggests wearing a Vibram FiveFinger when you exercise, as the socklike sneaker that simulates barefoot running helps build foot muscles while you train. Regular calf stretching and deep-tissue massage can also work out tight musculature. Finally, try this stretch to strengthen the muscle on the front of your leg (the one responsible for lifting your foot when you move): Sit on the floor with your legs in front of you, feet flexed. Hook an exercise band around a stationary object and then around the top of your foot just before your toes. Pull and flex. Think of all the Louboutins in your future.

via Beauty, Health, and Fitness: Vogue’s Daily Coverage of Fashion, Beauty, Parties and More.


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