Like most women, I started wearing heels when I was in my twenties. I loved them for several reasons: they were stylish, fun, and made me appear taller and leaner (hello, 5’1 here). When I began working in an office environment, heels made me feel professional and put together.
High heels never seemed to bother me during my 20s. I’d wear 3″ heels all day long. Yes, my feet would throb at the end of the day, but it was such a common feeling that I didn’t give it much thought. Didn’t all women’s feet hurt?
I cut back on wearing heels when I became pregnant with the girls and I stopped wearing them completely in my second trimester. When I returned to work after my maternity leave I went right back to my heels. After a week or so I recall having horrible pain in my toes and balls of my feet. I thought I just needed to get used to wearing heels again. At the time I was seeing an acupuncturist and chiropractor to help with some hip and hamstring issues which were no doubt due to carrying twins. Both commented on the heels I was wearing and said I shouldn’t be wearing them everyday. I tried to rotate my shoes and wear flats, but I still relied on my heels a lot!
Pretty soon my foot pain got worse. It got so severe I actually thought I fractured a bone in my foot. I saw a podiatrist who confirmed that, in fact, I had tendonitis in my foot. He said this could be caused by a number of things, but the most common is wearing heels. I knew he was right, but I also think this could have been one of the (many) ways my body changed after having kids.
My doctor said it could go away on it’s own, but sometimes surgery is the only way for it to heal completely. It was then that I decided to stop wearing heels. It took months and months for the pain to subside. I wore shoe inserts and cut back on any exercise that aggravated it – like running and yoga. It slowly got better. And I noticed that my hip and hamstring issues started to improve as well. Sometimes the hardest part of the recovery process is being patient.
My colleagues remarked right away when I stopped wearing high heels. In fact, many of them commented on them being my “signature” look. I definitely felt unconformable at first, but I was willing to sacrifice style for comfort. And I couldn’t deny how I felt physically. I stopped having achy feet every night. I stopped needing to roll the ball of my foot out constantly. I stopped taking anti-inflammatory cream. And, I could move around a lot faster. Heels really slow you down!
I do wear heels occasionally, like for my Stitch Fix photos (!) and when I dress up for events or special occasions, but it’s definitely rare.
Here are a few reasons why you may want to cut back on wearing heels:
- Foot problems: When you wear heels your feet are placed in an unnatural position. The increased pressure on the balls of your feet and your toes is the reason why so many people have foot pain. This can also lead to tendonitis (like I had), bunions, plantar fasciitis, and deformities of the toes.
- Knee, hip, and lower back pain: Heels force your knees, hips, and back out of proper alignment. Your hips try to compensate for the added pressure placed on your feet which forces you to lean back, placing added strain on your back and spine.
- Shortening of muscles and decreased athletic performance: Wearing heels causes a shortening of the calf muscles in your legs. It also restricts movement in your ankles and Achilles tendon,leaving you prime for injury and nerve damage. It will also make it much more difficult for you to transition into your workout. This can affect everything from your running gait to your range of motion.
I really like Dr. Natalie Nevins’ statement in an article from the American Osteopathic Association: “Your feet are, quite literally, your base of support. If your feet aren’t happy, nothing above them will be. Take small steps now to prevent big foot problems later.”
I found this helpful infographic from the Spine Health Institute on things to consider if you wear decide to wear heels:
I’ve definitely noticed a difference by avoiding heels. Most notably, my feet don’t ache at the end of the day, my hip pain is gone, and I can move around much easier. I’ve hung on to many of my heels because I’m still a bit attached to them, but I plan to sort through the ones I have and donate any that are more than 2-3″ high.
Do you wear heels often? Where do you find stylish flats and low heels? I need suggestions!