On October 17th 2017, the “Putting Your Best Foot Forward Act” was introduced which would ban mandatory high heels as part of the uniform in the workplace. Beyond being uncomfortable, wearing high heeled shoes can put you at risk for injury. Injuries can be acute (from wearing high heels one time and having an accident), or chronic (from wearing high heels repetitively over time).
The most common acute injury is an ankle sprain, from “rolling over your ankle”. The pointed position of your ankle increases the likelihood that you will sprain the lateral ligaments of your ankle. Take a look at the image below to see the most common mechanism of injury for ankle sprains.
Your base of support with high heels is also decreased because the contact area with the floor is smaller, which makes it more difficult to balance. To see how changing your base of support affects your balance, try standing on one foot! It takes more effort to stay standing than when you have both feet on the ground. Another way to try this is to raise both of your heels off of the ground and walk on your toes. This is also more challenging! Now check out the decreased base of support for the shoes below.
This risk of ankle sprain increases with employees in very active jobs who are wearing heels all day, like servers in restaurants. For information on the recommended rehabilitation for ankle sprains, check out our post on ankle sprains: It's Just An Ankle Sprain, Do I Really Need Physiotherapy?
Additional problems with high heeled footwear include the lack of space in the shoe and changing the mechanics of your foot. Let’s take a look at an X-ray of a foot without footwear, and a foot inside a high heel to see some of these changes.
Did you know???
There are 26 bones in each foot, that are controlled by many more small muscles and ligaments.
By maintaining your foot in a high heel for an 8 hour work day, 5 days a week, over a long period of time, you are over stretching some muscles and ligaments (ie. turf toe - a sprain of the ligament underneath your 1st toe’s proximal joint), shortening others (like your Achilles tendon and calf muscles) and changing the way your muscles have to function in order to walk. These changes can contribute to a variety of chronic foot problems including plantar fasciitis and bunions (hallux valgus). These can result in foot and ankle pain even when you don’t have your high heels on!
Finally, wearing high heels changes how your joints and muscles work even above the ankle! This can contribute to discomfort or pain in your knees, hips, and even your back.
If you’re hooked on your heels, there are still changes that you can make to better your foot health. You can choose a shoe with a lower heel, wear heels for fewer days of the week, or take micro breaks from your heels by switching to a flat shoe throughout the day in order to reduce the forces on your muscles and ligaments. If you want to wear a pair of heels to match the perfect outfit for a special occasion, great! But there are so many more options for footwear at work that don’t have the risks that high heels do. This bill is a great step in the right direction for foot health. Do your feet a favour and ditch the heels.
Are you having pain in your feet, knees, hips or back from your choice in footwear? Call us at 519-895-2020, or use our online booking tool on www.strivept.ca to book an appointment with one of our knowledgeable physiotherapists, and they will be sure to help you understand your injury.
Physiotherapist at Strive Physiotherapy & Performance
Strive Physiotherapy & Performance
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