How Working From Home Could Be Saving Your Feet, Back and Posture
A lot of corporate jobs either require or expect women to wear high heels as part of their professional look. Even other industries women may feel obliged to wear them on a day to day basis, but is this good for our health?
A few hours wearing heels on a night out isn’t likely to contribute to long term niggles, but wearing heels for a considerable amount of time for normal working hours obviously takes up a good chunk of your week.
So really, work from home life could be benefitting your health more than you think for the simple fact that you can wear what you want, as long as it’s out of shot during your video call anyway.
Let’s look at the research…
How if affects the body
Long term high heel wearing causes major changes in the functionality of the feet, ankle and knee joints as well as the lower back. An increase in height of the heel also forces the foot into an exaggerated pointed position which in turn increases knee flexion and lordosis of the lower back (1).
As well as affecting the lower back and lower limbs, one study also shown significant affects on the shoulders and upper back (2).
It’s also detrimental in adolescents as they’re still growing. It can cause postural disorders, where the head is unusually far forwards as well as lumbar hyperlordosis, pelvic anteversion, and knee valgus (3).
It does depend on heel height
In one study, the majority of females that took part preferred wearing heels that were at least 3 inches high and over half of them suffered with lower back pain and discomfort. From the entire study, a considerable increase in muscular fatigue was noticeable when the heel was higher than just 6 cm (2 inches). Higher heels cause the body to tense to improve balance, causing muscular fatigue and pain in the back, shoulders and neck (4).
In the adolescent study, it was observed that the height and width of the heel are the prime characteristics that were the most influencial in affecting posture and imbalance (3).
Lower, blocky heels are considerably less likely to affect your body. Lucky for us, that’s what’s actually in fashion at the moment! So this style is readily available.
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What about other types of high heels?
Shoes with a high heel that aren’t your typical high heel shoe, (shoes that have a high wedge for example), can actually cause the same amount of damange as a traditional high heel shoe. But, the advantage that this type of shoe offers is that is applies greater stability to the ankle joint (3).
The same is likely to apply to high heel boots as it covers the foot in it’s entirety as well as supports the ankle.
But faltforms are the absolute winner as one study explains that “footwear that has a heel size that is equal or close to the height of the forefoot does not cause horizontal imbalance of the sole and, therefore, will not affect the biomechanical alignment of the ankles, functioning similarly to the shoes without heels” (3).
Excuse me while I invest in loads of flatforms for this summer!
What can you do if you don't want to part with your heels?
Of course, I’m not saying you should just go ahead and throw out your high heels. I’d just suggest wearing them in moderation.
Also, the use of a full inner sole actually alters the biomechanics and therefore improves the comfort and functionality of high heel shoes (4).
But when you don’t need to be wearing them, i.e. at your desk, swap them out for a flatter supportive shoe and give your feet a rest.
I’d also recommend toe spreaders to correct the restriction that high heels apply to your toes. Any structured smart shoe can affect the toe area of the feet and cause bunions, so toe spreaders should be worn for a few hours to try to counteract bunions from getting worse. (Of course, if they are too far gone, then surgery is the only corrective option!)
- Wear flatter shoes when possible, that preferably have a wider toe box to allow more room for a natural foot shape.
- Consider just wearing high heels for special occasions or certain work related meetings rather than all the time.
- Look after your foot health by walking barefoot at home when possible and spread the toes.
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1 – Wiedemeijer MM, Otten E. Effects of high heeled shoes on gait. A review. Gait Posture. 2018 Mar
2 – Malick WH, Khalid H, Mehmood Z, Hussain H. Association of musculoskeletal discomfort with the use of high heeled shoes in females. J Pak Med Assoc. 2020 Dec
3 – Silva AM, de Siqueira GR, da Silva GA. Implications of high-heeled shoes on body posture of adolescents. Rev Paul Pediatr. 2013 Jun
4 – Hong WH, Lee YH, Chen HC, Pei YC, Wu CY. Influence of heel height and shoe insert on comfort perception and biomechanical performance of young female adults during walking. Foot Ankle Int. 2005 Dec