We all admire those chic women in Louboutin pumps who effortlessly float across the street. Equally, we all adore that fabulous friend or co-worker who gracefully flies through the day, night, and weekend in her stunning stilettos. Yet, witnessing a woman stumble in sky-high peep-toes can be like watching a baby giraffe awkwardly take its first steps. This painstaking picture is a real reminder of how our beloved heels can also have an ugly side − they can be painful and at worst, dangerous!
Up until now, high heel related research has focused on the force that is applied to the ball of the foot. Of course, it’s not rocket science to work out that the higher the heel, the more weight is consistently placed on the ball of the foot. The good news, however, is this: all women can still confidently light up the boardroom, bar, and beyond in their favourite high heels − turns out, it just takes muscle conditioning!
New groundbreaking research has identified that muscle fatigue is the underlying reason we suffer with pain in high heels. Due to the big toe and ankle being placed at a severe angle in the high heel, we are constantly using the stabilising muscles around our ankle to keep our foot steady. That’s why when you’re strutting around in your stilettos, you feel like you’re getting a workout. It’s from those lower leg muscles working overtime.
When our main ankle muscles tire out (which is common after one hour of wear), our toe-scrunching muscles kick in to help the ankle maintain balance and stability. It doesn’t take long before the foot and leg muscles fatigue completely, and this is when we are in the most pain and at the highest risk of a fall or ankle injury. Often, this is the point in the day or night where we slide out the side door and into a cab, or sheepishly kick off our heels under the table.
Watch out for these five key factors that elevate muscle fatigue and pain in high heels:
- Wearing a shoe too big
- Wearing a shoe too small
- Wearing a shoe too high
- Wearing a spike heel
- Wearing a worn out heel
To ensure you’re in good stead to handle big days (and even bigger nights) in your high heels without any embarrassing blunders or injury, it’s time to strengthen your legs, make informed choices with your heels, and boost your favourite shoes with luxe cushioning and support.
The secret is there’s a sweet heel height for everyone relative to muscle conditioning and ankle range. This heel height can be easily identified by rising onto the balls of your feet, keeping your weight effortlessly under the big toe and second toe. The height just before your foot starts to roll out is your maximum heel height for maximum comfort.
You can improve your leg endurance and ultimately your heel height capability by tip-toe carpet walking and ensuring your weight is evenly distributed under the first and second toes, without letting your feet roll out. Start with a time frame (i.e. five minutes) you can comfortably keep balance and aim to build up endurance gradually.
Although the heel height is directly responsible for the burning pain many women encounter, a platform or luxe layer of cushioning under the ball of the foot can provide longer-term comfort without requiring a height reduction − thank goodness! Likewise, opting for a wedged or block heel creates a greater platform for added stability.
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