Updated: Aug 13, 2018
High-heeled shoes have been around for centuries with both men and women wearing them. Because they make a person taller, accentuate the leg muscles, and can make someone more attractive, it is no wonder they have been popular for so many years. And even though medical criticisms date back 250 years, a significant percentage of women continue to stand on their toes all day long (4). But are high heels always a bad idea? The answer is not necessarily. There are a couple specific instances when I actually recommend the use of heeled shoes for my patients. Continue below to see why medical professions often advise against wearing high heels and when I say it may be OK to wear them.
The evidence that high heels have potentially disastrous effects on one’s body is abundant. They alter body alignment, thus changing the center of gravity and adding significant pressure to the knee joint as well as to the forefoot. Furthermore, the calf muscle is in a contracted state while in heels, which can eventually lead to shortening and tightening of the muscle, as well as the Achilles tendon (2). Lastly, as the heel height gets higher, there is also a greater risk of twisting or spraining the ankle (2,3).
Now for the (potentially) good news! Wearing high heels is not always bad, even from a medical standpoint. In fact, there are specific instances when I actually encourage use of a heeled shoe (versus a flat shoe) for my patients.
For arch support: Shoes with a heel will actually support the arch more than a complete flat shoe. This does not mean you should be wearing 3” heels all day long; however, those with flat feet problems, or those with higher arches, may feel relief in a heeled shoe.
For tight calf muscles & Achilles tendinitis: By wearing a heeled shoe, the heel bone is lifted off the ground, thus taking tension off the Achilles tendon. Heels, in these situations, should only be used temporarily, until the calf muscles are stretched out or the Achilles tendon has had time to heal, in the case of tendinitis.
Keep heel height to a minimum (2” or less) or use wedges (1)
Find a heel with a cushioned forefoot and wider toe box (1)
Alternate between heels and other shoes (e.g. sneakers) throughout the day (1)
DISCLAIMER: The above information is meant for educational purposes only and should not be construed as medical advice. Should you have questions or concerns related to your health, please consult the doctor, or your own healthcare professional.
1. American Podiatric Medical Association. Retrieved from https://www.pinterest.com/pin/5699937003771588/
2. Kick-Off Pain From High Heels With 5 Quick Facts. (2014, April). Retrieved from http://www.apmhealth.com/blog/bid/383413/Kick-Off-Pain-From-High-Heels-With-5-Quick-Facts
3. Lindeman, T, Maloney, B. (2013, June). High heels can be a pain in the feet. Retrieved from
4. Linder, M, Saltzman, CL. (1998). A History of Medical Scientists on High Heels. International Journal of Health Services, 28(2), 201-225. Retrieved from https://pdfs.semanticscholar.org/3c59/12ab4ea5cf8d9cfa9afed29d66d239cb90ed.pdf