Suffering for Beauty: High Heel Health Risks

Designers and fashion-forward women everywhere have long sacrificed for the sake of style. For a certain sect of the population, anything is worth looking fabulous - especially comfort. It is a philosophy put best by French Impressionist painter Pierre Auguste-Renoir, who famously said that "the pain passes, but beauty remains."

When it comes to high heels, women regularly sacrifice their sense of comfort in order to take a fashion-forward approach. Aesthetically, high heels showcase a woman's legs like no other, but the effects of regularly elevating your heel above the balls of your feet can linger far longer than you might expect. When you decide to wear heels, it is important to be aware of precisely what potential sacrifices you are making for the sake of beauty.

Immediate Risks: The Stumble Factor
When a woman slips her feet into a pair of high heels, she immediately changes her center of balance and general ease of walking. What might seem like an easy process - moving from point A to point B - with feet firmly planted on the ground can become an obstacle course in heels. Whether you encounter a heel caught in a crack, an unlevel cobblestone or a simple miscalculation, it is easy to fall or stumble in heels. This leads to the risk of a rolled or sprained ankle or twisted or sprained knees. What started out as a night on the town in a great pair of heels can end with a trip to the emergency room and a plaster cast.

Long Term Risks: The Effect of Heels on a Body
That center of balance shift also results in a redistribution of weight on the female body.  If you've noticed that you stand differently in heels than in flats, you're not imagining things. The body's alignment shifts forward, which places pressure on points of the body that were never built to sustain that stress.
Your knees bear the brunt of the changes. Studies show that high heels place excessive stress both on the front and back of the knees; osteoarthritis is common among women who have worn high heels for much of their adult lives. Low back pain is another common side effect of long-term heels use.

How to Prevent Injury
The argument that wide-heeled shoes are less harmful than stilettos has been proven false by research - wearing any shoes that elevate your heel inches above the rest of your foot is going to cause discomfort. If you can get away with wearing high heels only on very special occasions, your knees and back will come to thank you in the years to come.

If you must wear heels, remember the Three Hour Rule: wear heels for no longer than three hours at a time. When the time comes that you slip those heels off, try to pamper your feet as much as you can. Skip the ballet flats or sandals in favor of well-cushioned, supportive sneakers or padded dress shoes. By letting your feet rest and get some support, you will be able to balance out the effects of those stylish yet painful strappy designer heels.

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