Do you love wearing sky-high heels in the workplace all day? Your ankles may not love you for it!
It’s a hot topic at the moment – the wearing of heels. People are wearing ‘barefoot shoes’ to run on the beach, with the aim of making their gait a more natural one to enhance and strengthen the muscles and tendons. It is yet unproven but many think modern cushioned running shoes reduce proprioception (the sense of how the body is positioned in space) and may increase the risk of running injuries. Other people are wearing curved-sole shoes to make their calf muscles work harder and become stronger. However, high-heel wearing has been around much longer, beginning in this part of the world in the 14th century. And it is not uncommon for women to wear high heels in the workplace for all or some of the working week.
These days millions of women across the world wear heels to work every day, and some Australian scientists have done an interesting study to find out what effect this is having on them.
What they found was that women who were used to wearing heels every day walked differently from those who typically wore flat shoes, even when the regular heel-wearers went barefoot. The heel wearers moved with shorter, more powerful strides than the others with their feet always in a flexed, toes-pointed position. This movement pattern continued even when the women removed their shoes and walked barefoot.
The changes were permanent, and were caused by shortening of the fibres in their calf muscles because they put much greater biomechanical strain on their calves than those who wore flats. They also used more energy to cover the same distance as non-heel wearers which probably caused more muscle fatigue. These changes happened young – the volunteers were only 25 – showing that it doesn’t take long for these changes to be made.
So, the muscle strains that occur when walking in heels may ultimately increase the likelihood of strain injuries, quite aside from the risk of falling! This risk is still higher when heel wearers switched to trainers for gym activity, as their calf muscle are unused to walking in flats and exercise puts a greater strain on them.
So how can you switch from heels to flats? Try changing your regular work shoes gradually and only wearing heels once or twice a week, and remove your shoes when you can. Bit by bit you can reduce this to wearing mostly flats and save those heels for nights out and special occasions.
Read the study http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22241055
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Thanks for reading!
By James Revell
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