High heels prove dangerous for ankles


June 9, 2015

Topic: ankle injuries

Some women swear by wearing high heels each day. However, it may not be doing any favors for their ankles.

Some women swear by wearing high heels each day. However, it may not be doing any favors for their ankles. Researchers from Hanseo University found that women who wore high heels over long periods of time may initially have strong ankles but will have weak ankles in the long run. They found that this type of footwear was linked to several kinds of ankle injuries, including plantar fasciitis. The findings were published in the International Journal of Clinical Practice. 

The researchers followed around 40 women in college from the Department of Air Tourism and Service who had to wear high heels for their classes more than three times a week. All of the shoes had a heel that was 10 centimeters or more. The female participants were sorted based on their college year and their ankle strength. The study authors determined the women's ankle strength using the HUMAC NORM Isokinetic Extremity system, which is used across the world to measure the strength of the extremities. The researchers also collected data on the women's balance using the HUMAC Balance System. 

A negative turnout
The data proved that wearing these heels for long periods of time had negative effects on the plantarflexor and the dorsiflexor, which are sets of muscles on the lower part of the calf that push on the ankle. Plantarflexors help extend the ankle, while the dorsiflexors help flex the ankle. The findings also revealed that the invertor and evertor, which are small muscles that support the tibia and fibula, were negatively affected by wearing heels. Initially, they found that the invertor and evertor strengthened over time, helping to support the foot and ankle joints and bones. However, by the women's senior year, both the evertor and invertor had weakened in their feet. 

"Even though the women's ankles strengthened over the first three years, they weakened by the fourth year."

The researchers concluded that even though the women's ankles strengthened over the first three years, they weakened by the fourth year. This slow weakening could lead to a muscular imbalance, which is when some of the muscles are stronger than others and do not support one another as well. These types of imbalances can lead to ankle and foot injuries in women who wear heels.

Ankle strengthening
The study authors emphasized the importance of regularly performing ankle strengthening exercises to prevent the muscles from deteriorating in this way. They also recommended that women wear heels less often. Some helpful exercises include:

  • Towel scrunches: This helps stretch out the calf muscles and the heel muscles. Simply sit on the floor with the legs stretched out and wrap a towel behind the ball of one foot. Grab both sides of the towel and pull back, making sure to keep the leg straight. Hold the position for 30 seconds and release. Wait 30 seconds and repeat. Do this three times. 
  • Heel walking: Begin standing with the feet flat. Flex the feet so that the toes are completely off the ground and only the heels are supporting the body. Walk forward on the heels until rest is needed. Repeat twice. 
  • Heel raises: This helps strengthen the calf muscles that support the ankle. Stand with both feet flat on the floor while leaning onto the back of a chair. Keep one foot flat and raise the other so the heel is off the ground. Bring it back to the floor. Repeat this exercise 10 times. 

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