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Healthy Aging
pain and high heels

Do You Have to Give Up Your High Heels?

By Sheryl Kraft

Created: 11/02/2015
Last Updated: 11/02/2015

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My feet feel so happy in my sneakers. With their cushioning and abundant support, they're right in sync with my love of walking, allowing me to tread comfortably for miles on end.

But I must admit, I still love heels. Yet while it's true that I no longer believe in being a slave to fashion at any cost, you have to face the fact that sneakers don't exactly make the best look with skirts, dresses or evening attire.

But heels are no longer so easy to wear. (Were they ever? Maybe not, but so many of us ignored the discomfort in favor of looking glam. Ahem.) Your feet, like so many other things, change with age. One common problem? The loss of fat in the bottom of your feet leading to a loss of natural cushioning.


You know those beautiful high heels with the feminine-looking pointed toes? The ones that elongate your legs, making you feel sexy and powerful? Though they may be hard to resist they can be fraught with problems.

For one, they mess with your gait. If you've ever witnessed a woman teetering past you in high heels, you've no doubt noticed a hint of pain and look of uncertainty on her face. That's because wearing heels makes you take shorter, more forceful strides. That's what a group of scientists found; these findings even existed when the same women walked barefoot. Wearing heels, the researchers found, puts your feet in a constant position of being flexed with your toes pointed. Hardly a comfortable position to be in. This shortens the fibers in your calf muscles and puts greater strain on calf muscles, which the scientists think may ultimately increase the risk of strain injuries.

And still another study found that the longer you wear heels, the more your risk for ankle instability and balance problems, with lowered strength in the muscles along the front and back of the ankle. High heels “alter the natural position of the foot-ankle complex,” which “travels up the lower limb at least as far as the spine,” they say.

According to the American Osteopathic Association, one in ten women wear high heels at least three days a week. A third have fallen while wearing heels. And up to a third of women suffer permanent problems as a result of wearing heels for too long.

But we still love our heels. Despite the negative press, so many of us still want to wear them. A survey by the American Podiatric Medical Association (APMA), found that even though the majority of heel wearers complained of foot pain, nearly half of those polled still wear high heels.

Here's how you can have your heels and wear them, too:

  1. Many podiatrists recommend avoiding heels higher than two inches. Go higher and your body weight is shifted forward, putting more pressure on the all of your foot and your toes, they say.
  2. Wear a shoe with as wide a toe box as possible. A narrow toe box squeezes the toes, leading to toe deformities including bunions, hammertoes and calluses and even ingrown toenails.
  3. Look for shoes with padding in the forefoot area so your feet don't slip forward. This will also help cushion your toes and ball of your foot. To relieve pressure, the shoe needs to be as wide as possible, have a more cushioned sole and incorporate some support for the foot to spread the load. A strap across the foot can also help to hold the foot 'back' in the shoe and reduce pressure on the ball of the foot, says podiatric surgeon and Innovation lab member
  4. When trying on heels in the store, go beyond the carpeted areas in the shoe department; venture away and walk on bare floors.
  5. Carry your shoes. Wear comfortable shoes (like sneakers) to get where you're going, then change into your heels when you arrive. And if and when you do wear those heels, try to wear them when you're doing limited walking or standing.


Nice suggestions! I love my high heals and I do not want to give up on them. In my essay at I conducted very interesting research concerning history of high heals. I found out that actually men wore them from the very beginning!Interesting)

Love the suggestions! When I was in high school, I would walk to school in 3 and 4 inch heels almost every day. My mother would nag telling me how I was going to ruin my feet. Still, that didn't deter me. I was a bit stubborn. (That sound is my mother rolling over in her grave.) Today, almost any shoe beyond my favorite rain boots (with arch supports), my Keens, or my Teva sandals are what I call "sitting shoes"; I'll wear them only long enough to walk to a table or a seat at the theater and then sit.

I gave up my spiked heels a few years ago. When I wear flats I tend to get leg cramps so I pretty much wear cushy pumps. Whenever I come across a dressy looking pair I grab them. Otherwise it is the plain-old white, taupe, blue and black.

Before I moved to California I did the "carry your shoes" thing all the time. Now I just have varying levels of fanciness of flipflops -- beach, everyday, casual, and dress -- so that strategy is no longer necessary :)! I used to love heels but as I got older my ankles turned into rubber bands and that became less and less practical!

I gave up high heels long ago. I live in sneakers and flip flop, and when I have to get dressed up, I always go for cute flats.

I've never been a wearer of heels, which turned out okay since the diagnosis of MS (and my stumble and tumble ways) would have guaranteed injury if I had been a heel-lover who refused to give them up.

Great info I'll share with friends and family, though. Thank you!

I gave up on most heels long ago because of my back and chronic pain...for my daughter's recent wedding I purchased ballroom dance shoes for comfort. They were wonderful. My daughter spent 10 hours in her high heels and did nerve damage to her toes...even after a month her toes are still numb. The doctor says it will take time.

Oh, I do love the look of high heels, but they are way too uncomfortable for me to wear now. If I have to wear a heel, it is usually 2" or under.

Oh my gosh. This post speaks to my heart. I lived in heels my whole life and both my feet suffered for it. After two bunion surgeries, my feet will never be the same. Now, I only wear heels that are at best, two inches and I can't wear them for long. I hear you on this one. Thanks much for sharing!

I'm ok with giving them up. more than ok. Each to their own!

I don't wear heels and never have. They've always felt wrong on my feet and have always hurt. I don't wear anything that is uncomfortable anywhere because I believe in listening to my body.

I'm a fan of platforms. Solves the heel issue with comfort.

The only time I've worn heels - and they weren't that tall - was when I worked in an office back in the day. I'm all about the comfort these days!

I'm just too clumsy to navigate in heels. I'm sure I'd come crashing down and knock out my front teeth in them; not exactly the glam look I'm aiming for.

I gave up my heels twenty years ago because my second husband is short and I have never looked back, although I did love the way heels made my legs look ...

Unfortunately, I haven't been able to wear heels since my 20s. With Plantar Fasciitis, I can hardly walk any distance in any shoe!

I started wearing heels in my teens and rarely considered wearing anything else except for the occasional flip-flop or sneakers for working out. Now that I'm in my 50's with knee problems and some edema I'm debating on whether I should ditch most of my heels. I don't wear them often anymore--typically I'll wear low-heeled boots in the winter and pretty flip-flops in the summer. I've acquired a nice collection of mostly tall high heels (4 inches+) and I hate to give them up even though I know I shouldn't wear them anymore. Some have platforms and that helps to a degree, but I've wondered why they don't put the same cushioning into stilettos that they do in "sensible pumps"? I broke down and bought one pair of those for a courtroom appearance, but I nearly never found anything that looked remotely fashionable. Heels give you a much nicer and shapier silhouette, so I'm hesitant to part with my shoes some of which were rather expensive, but hurt just as the less expensive ones do. As crazy as it sounds, I think I'm emotionally attached to my heels! I have no issue carting off clothing to the consignment shop and have pared down my handbags to just a few upscale ones, but I'm overrun with shoes and having a hard time letting go. Does anyone have a suggestion for cushy, but fashion oriented heels or pointers as to how to wean one's self off of the deadly pretties and find a comparable alternative for dressy looks?


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