I was listening to my favorite program on NPR this morning, Fresh Air with Terry Gross, and her guest was Gretchen Reynolds who writes the Phys Ed column for the New York Times online. She was talking primarily about running and the latest research regarding minimal shoes, barefoot running and orthotics. Then she got to high heels. I immediately wanted to turn it off because I knew it was going to be bad news for me. I wear high heels 5 days a week for close to 50 total hours. I also wear heels if I am going out on the town, so add on a few more hours here and there. That is a lot of time for my feet to be stuck in a painful contraption we call pumps.
Basically, Gretchen said that for a person who wears heels most of the time, the foot and leg positioning in heels sort of becomes the new default position for the joints and the structures within. And this is not a good position.
I found an article titled The Dangers of High Heels written by Gretchen Reynolds back in January.
"...the scientists found that heel wearers moved with shorter, more forceful strides than the control group, their feet perpetually in a flexed, toes-pointed position. This movement pattern continued even when the women kicked off their heels and walked barefoot. As a result, the fibers in their calf muscles had shortened and they put much greater mechanical strain on their calf muscles than the control group did.I was listening to all of this and thinking, "Wow! This sounds like an explanation of my injuries."
“We think that the large muscle strains that occur when walking in heels may ultimately increase the likelihood of strain injuries.”
The feminist in me should probably be opposed to wearing high heels in the first place because they supposedly reduce women to a sex object by sacrificing comfort for an increase in sex appeal. And I'm a runner, so I should be doubly opposed to footwear that can potentially hinder me from running.
So then why does a running, feminist gal like myself choose to wear shoes that I know are detrimental to my foot health?
- I feel more confident and powerful in heels.
- They make my outfits look better.
- I feel short and stumpy when wearing anything other than heels.
- I get jealous of other people in heels when I'm wearing flats (i.e. Shoe Envy).
- Heels make my calves look awesome.
Bottom line: Heels contribute to muscle and joint strains. Sure, they make you look taller and make your calves look defined and muscular, but they're not helping out on the running front.
I suppose it's time to start the weening process. This brings on a sort of anxiety and sense of loss, but I know it is time to back away from the heels.
My tendons will thank me one day.