Wearing heels has a serious impact on your ability to think properly and your ability to breathe properly.
There have been a number of studies identifying health risks associated with wearing heels long-term. While wearing heels initially strengthens the ankle muscles, long-term the same muscles are weakened, leading to injury, reported researchers at the University of North Carolina in the U.S. last year.
Studies have suggested high heels can lead to problems including hammer toes (where the toes become permanently bent), muscle fatigue and osteoarthritis (‘wear and tear’ of the joints). There may also be a link between high heels and cancer, according to a leading cancer specialist, David Agus, a professor of medicine at the University of Southern California.
He argues that wearing uncomfortable shoes every day doesn’t just cause unnecessary pain — and damage joints — it actively triggers low-level inflammation as the body struggles with being forced into an unnatural posture and gait.
Inflammation is part of the body’s natural healing process. Whether it’s puffiness around a splinter or swelling around a joint, the process is triggered when the body encounters harmful stimuli such as bacteria, injury or irritants.
However, scientists now believe if low levels of inflammation are allowed to become chronic the process can become highly destructive.
Certain kinds of inflammation have been linked to our most troubling degenerative diseases, including heart disease, Alzheimer’s, autoimmune diseases, diabetes, and can dramatically increase cancer risk,’ says Professor Agus.
He says that although cancer may be caused by damaged or faulty genes encoded within our DNA, anything that damages DNA or hinders its natural repair process can increase the risk of cancer. Professor Agus believes that if your body has to deal with ongoing, chronic inflammation it can shut down its DNA repair process to concentrate on the inflammation instead. ‘When the body’s DNA repair shop is closed, it leaves us vulnerable to cancer and other diseases,’ he says.
Wearing heels all day, every day, can create inflammation in the crushed toes, the balls of the feet and rubbed heels.
The impact can travel right up the leg to trigger joint degeneration and arthritis in the knee. High heels can also affect the ankles, hips and even the muscles of the lower back.
Any heel over 3in high will inevitably tilt the body forwards, which means you have to lean back to compensate, putting your pelvis out of alignment and compressing the spine.
A lower heel may cause less damage (wedges give the impression of height while keeping the food relatively flat) but the problem of inflammation is easily compounded if, say, the toes are squashed into tiny points at the front.
Problems only occur when something happens to weaken our defence mechanism, and high heels — he says — are an unnecessary hindrance to optimal health.
So although high heels might not actually cause cancer, by wearing them all the time you could be unwittingly hindering your own natural cancer-fighting abilities.