The New York Times recently published an article that was quite upsetting to me, as it confirmed everything I've been trying to deny about my beloved high heels, which I don daily despite my bunions.
Apparently, wearing pumps, stilettos and wedges on a regular basis can affect the way muscles and tendons work when walking, even when a high heel devotee switches to flats or sneakers. The author of the article spoke with three biomechanics specialists, all of whom confirmed that towering footwear has an effect on a person's gait.
One study that was conducted in Finland and published in The Journal of Applied Physiology found that a group of women with an average age of 25 who reported wearing high heels at least 40 hours per week had a tendency to use their leg muscles – rather than their tendons – when walking.
"Several studies have shown that optimal muscle-tendon efficiency [while walking] occurs when the muscle stays approximately the same length while the tendon lengthens. When the tendon lengthens, it stores elastic energy and later returns it when the foot pushes off the ground. Tendons are more effective springs than muscles," said Neil Cronin, a postdoctoral researcher, quoted by the news source.
The researchers observed this biomechanical feature in the heel-wearers whether they were wearing pumps or flats, suggesting that donning the towering footwear on a regular basis results in permanent, or at least semi-permanent gait alteration.
Another study that was conducted at the University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio revealed that walking in heels reduces movement in the ankles and increases the amount of work done by the hip flexor muscles. The study authors concluded that these factors may result in musculoskeletal pain for people who wear heels over a long period of time.
Excuse me while I grab my tissues. Thanks a lot for making me weep, science. But I suppose there's no denying it: High heels are not good for my hips, legs, ankles or feet. Previous studies have suggested that imbalanced biomechanics can lead to foot conditions like bunions or hammer toe.
Lucky for me, bunion splints and orthotics can help correct some of my wonky lower extremity biomechanics, allowing me to continue indulging in platforms and stilettos.