The Reasons I No Longer Wear High Heels

by Jen on February 3, 2011

I’m settled in on the couch with a bowl of ice cream and some hot tea (to help with the fact that it’s 30 degrees and sleeting outside and I’m eating ice cream ;)) and I’m ready to talk feet. I mentioned in Sunday’s post that I gave up high heels when I was training for the Marine Corps Marathon and some of you have mentioned that you are interested in hearing why.

When I sustained my hamstring injury last September, I made a beeline to see Jen’s husband Jeff. I knew if anyone could get me running again, it would be him since he’s married to a marathoner and is a triathlete himself. Every time I went in for an appointment I was coming from work and wearing heels. And each time Jeff asked me, “are those the shoes you wear every day?” He stressed that I needed to stop wearing heels at least until after the race to facilitate injury recovery and good alignment.

I heeded his advice and didn’t wear heels a single time until the marathon. When I attempted to wear them again after, I couldn’t believe the discomfort I experienced. I would say that pre-injury and pre-marathon, I wore heels most days of the week to work. Now, I maybe wear them once every couple of weeks and always end up regretting it by the end of the day.

Enough backstory, let’s get to the facts. This is why you should not wear high heels every day!

  • Foot pain – when you wear heels, your feet are in a downward position. Your forefoot has to deal with an intense amount of pressure. I read this staggering fact in this article, “The pressure increases as the height of the shoe heel increases. Wearing a 3 1/4 inch heel increases the pressure on the bottom of the forefoot by 76%. The increased pressure may lead to pain or foot deformities such as hammer toes, bunions and neuromas.” I think I will pass on bunions, thank you! I was talking with a co-worker about my plans to write this post and she told me that she had to have surgery on a neuroma and no longer has feeling in part of her foot.
  • Posture – according to the Washington Post, heels push the center of the body forward and that takes the hips and spine out of alignment. The shoes cause you to tilt forward and that makes your hip flexors work a lot harder to keep you upright. This creates a lot of stress on the lumbar region of the spine. Low back pain is very common for high heel wearers and is one of my primary complaints when I wear them!
  • Knee pain – heels place a lot of force on the inside of the knee due to the knee and have been linked to osteoarthritis. The Washington Post article refers to a study that showed, “knee joint pressure increased by as much as 26 percent when a woman wears heels.
  • Shortening of the achilles and calf – your feet are in an elevated position all day and this results in shortening of the achilles tendons and calf muscles. This can be especially troublesome for runners who go straight from heels to running shoes. Also an issue for my fellow yogis because it’s a major contributor to not being able to get the heels closer to the mat in down dog.

*And yes, if you sit at your desk all day this is still a problem. You’ll see in the picture below that even though I am sitting, my feet are still elevated, thus the shortening is still occurring.

Check out the article links above for more in-depth information on what high heels do to your body. The Washington Post link has a great graphic that gives you a quick look at the big picture. Have I convinced anyone else to start wearing flats more often? It’s been an adjustment but it’s 100% worth it!

{ 30 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Alaina February 4, 2011 at 12:11 am

I used to wear heels at the desk and I was standing for 8 hours! What was I thinking? I started getting pain in my knees so I went to flats and my knees feel so much better. I do own heels, but don’t wear them often. I would like to get more, cute flats though. Thank you for the information! :-)

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2 Claudie February 4, 2011 at 1:36 am

Alright, I know this will sound crazy, BUT:
Jen do you (or anyone else reading this post) have any idea if the type of foot and stride you have affects in any way the way heels impact you? I’m asking this because I have high arches, and I underpronate, and I usually feel more comfortable with high heels. (I told you it’d sound crazy.)
The thing is, for all my life, I’ve always felt better on high heels than wearing flat shoes, and the only times I’ve sprained my ankle have been those while wearing sneakers and the like. I’m not joking, and I know it’s hard to believe. But it’d be of great help if anyone can suggest a theory for why this is.

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3 Emma (Sweet Tooth Runner) February 4, 2011 at 5:09 am

This is scary! I’m guilty of wearing heels quite a lot, and I knew it was bad for you, but not this bad!! I can’t believe it shortens your Achilles and calves!! You’ve definitely persuaded me to cut back!

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4 Kristy@RunTheLongRoad February 4, 2011 at 8:15 am

Thanks for posting this one Jen! I’m not a fan of heels in general and do notice a difference (PAIN!) when I wear them.

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5 Jen February 4, 2011 at 3:09 pm

I know! I wonder why we are all so willing to just go along with the pain!? Once you stop wearing them it’s like a whole new world!

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6 Whitney February 4, 2011 at 8:25 am

How does Kelly Ripa do it? She’s an athlete and practically sleeps in 6 inch heels a day!! haha I only wear high heels on special occasions because they do give me calf pain if worn for a prolonged period. Love the post! :)

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7 Jen February 4, 2011 at 3:18 pm

I have no idea how she does it. She’s like a tiny fireball. It’s crazy. But it doesn’t mean that she has healthy feet! ;)

Glad you enjoyed the post!

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8 Theresa @ActiveEggplant February 4, 2011 at 9:36 am

I used to wear heels all the time – like every single day. I sprained my ankle a couple years ago and was relegated to flats. Now whenever I wear heels (maybe once a week) I get serious back pain! Needless to say, my once-a-week heel wearing is slowly going away.

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9 Jen February 4, 2011 at 3:19 pm

Back pain and toe numbness are top complaints when I wear them now. I can’t believe I put up with that on a daily basis for so long!

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10 Steph February 4, 2011 at 9:41 am

Strange, but I had been having plantar fasciitis issues and went to the Foot & Ankle Institute here in Charlotte. My P.A. actually said that wearing a heel would be good for my foot and that wearing flat would be really bad for my plantar fasciits. Weird, huh? I am getting fit for orthotics next week and have already started wearing inserts as I’m gearing up for the year of triathlon! Bottom line: we have to take care of our feet!

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11 Jen February 4, 2011 at 3:24 pm

There are always crazy exceptions to every rule and it sounds like you may be one of them for heels! I’ve heard plantar fascitis is super painful so I hope that your treatment works and that you are feeling better soon! I agree, feet seem like something you can ignore but the truth is that they carry us around all day!

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12 Marian February 4, 2011 at 10:35 am

So glad you wrote this post! I’ve pretty much given up wearing heels too – a few months ago, after a night out in heels, my joints hurt so much I felt like an old lady. I think that wearing flats (and sneakers whenever possible) has made a big difference in my injury recovery. Plus….flats are (almost) always cheaper :)

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13 Jen February 4, 2011 at 3:25 pm

Speaking of which…I should invest in a few new pairs soon! ;)

I can imagine that heels would be terrible for your ankle recovery. I hope that you’ve been feeling better lately! I know you’ve been doing some running!

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14 Jen February 4, 2011 at 3:26 pm

Oh and how attractive is it to be that girl at the end of the night who is holding her heels in her hand instead of wearing them on her feet!?

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15 ashley @ one hot mess February 4, 2011 at 10:59 am

Yikes! My mom has been telling me for YEARS to limit how much I wear heels. She wore the tallest heels she could find forever until after she had my brother and I. She’s had 3 foot surgeries since then – all due to the damage caused by high heels. I’ve gotten a lot better but this post has me convinced to finally toss out all of my pumps! Thanks for posting!

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16 Jen February 4, 2011 at 3:28 pm

Ashley – that is crazy that your mom has had to have THREE surgeries because of heels. I still think they’re okay on occasion but just not for daily use!

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17 micki February 4, 2011 at 11:01 am

Man, every time I wear heels, the next 2 days I am DOWN for the count. I’m so incredibly sore, and I even hate them while I’m wearing them. Thank goodness I don’t wear them often anymore. Plus, Husband is WAY taller than me, so it’s kind of pointless. Thanks for the post, I plan on sending this to a friend of mine whom I keep stressing to stop wearing heels… and she’s a runner!!!

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18 Jen February 4, 2011 at 3:29 pm

Haha – I love your outlook on your husband being so much taller that there’s no point! Hope your friend sees the light! :)

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19 Krista (kristastes) February 4, 2011 at 11:51 am

I wear sneakers to work almost every day, WITH my dress pants. I call it my Ellen style :) I work both in an office and on a manufacturing floor, so I am walking around ~ 2 miles per day or more. Heels would never be possible for me!

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20 Jen February 4, 2011 at 3:32 pm

Krista – sometimes you just have to put health and comfort over style. I’m like that when it’s cold out too – who cares if I look cute if I’m freezing cold!?

I can’t imagine walking 2 miles a day in heels. I would be wearing sneakers with dress pants too!

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21 Kira February 4, 2011 at 1:41 pm

I’m short (5’2″), and I used to wear pretty high heels. Now I buy shoes with just a little bit of lift (1-2″). They make me feel more confident, particularly in situations when I’m preaching or teaching a class. Plus I think they look more professional, and it’s cheaper than getting all of my pants hemmed! I’m usually on my feet a lot, so really high heels aren’t an option, but comfortable shoes with a little bit of a lift? Yes please!

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22 Jen February 4, 2011 at 3:05 pm

Kira – what is it about wearing heels that makes us feel more dressed up and professional? I am the same way – the only time I wear them now is when I’m dressing up for a night out or have a big client meeting. I do agree that they provide that extra confidence boost!

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23 Lizzy February 4, 2011 at 2:45 pm

I love this post! I barely wear heels ever now- only to weddings. When I started having achilles pain, I just figured it was best to wear comfortable shoes as much as possible and now, well, its stuck. I don;t like heels at all anymore! So uncomfortable. : )

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24 Jen February 4, 2011 at 3:04 pm

Lizzy – when I was training for my first marathon I struggled with achilles tendonitis. I was training in a very hilly city and would go straight from wearing heels at work to running hills. My physical therapist said that was pretty much a recipe for disaster for my achilles. I can’t believe that I kept wearing heels all the time after that experience. What was I thinking!?

I’m so happy to hear you are loving life free of heels too! :)

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25 Ashley February 5, 2011 at 4:02 pm

I used to wear heels on a daily basis, and would go straight to running or cycling shoes after work. Eventually that led to Achilles tendonitis in BOTH heels, and months of grueling PT. I wear nothing but flats now, and haven’t had any flare-ups. As much as I loved my heels, I love running and cycling much more!

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26 Jen February 4, 2011 at 2:47 pm

I don’t wear heels, my legs are so fat it looks like I’m digging for oil with each step.
I used to wear heels often though and my feet were always aching by the end of the day!

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27 Becky February 4, 2011 at 2:54 pm

So interesting! I didn’t know the statistics, but I did ditch the heels during my last training cycle. I had some foot pain and had no choice. Now I rarely wear them and I am so much more comfortable. My grandmother has experienced many different heel-related problems from years of wearing them to work. In her time, woman were expected to wear them in business. We’re so lucky times have changed!

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28 Jen February 4, 2011 at 2:57 pm

I agree, we are so lucky that we have choices when it comes to appropriate footwear. I think it’s a must for runners to limit wearing them – especially when training for a race!

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29 Nicole February 15, 2011 at 9:13 am

I have been totally embracing flats – even though I feel that, at 5’3″, I am very short! But you know, there is a way to make flats feel professional. It’s all in tailored clothes and nice flats! I also commute on foot (Boston) and via train, so I wear sneakers to work and change at my desk. It’s made a huge difference in terms of my muscles and recovery! I’m also much more likely to walk around at work if I am wearing flats. Yay – rock it!

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30 Jo @ livingmintgreen April 6, 2011 at 6:35 pm

I have a love/mostly hate relationship with heels. I own a closet full of them, but can’t wear ANY of them! I developed bunions from years of abuse – and had surgery in December to correct 1 foot, which involved 2 surgical fractures, repositioning of the joint, partial removal of my big toe along with soft tissue repair. Heels just aren’t worth it! From now on, I’m a flats-only kinda girl! (& maybe the very occasional platform heel or wedge) : )

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