What High Heels Do to Ankles
Women who wear high heels have been shown to have different feet from women who wear flats. Now, a new study from South Korea has found that walking in high heels alters the position of the ankle and can produce a chain reaction all the way up to the spine.
For their study, researchers at Hanseo University analyzed a group of young women training to become airline attendants. They are required to wear high heels to class due to airline dress codes. After each class, the researchers tested the balance and strength of the ankle muscles of 10 students.
Their findings showed that the older sophomore and junior students had stronger muscles around their ankles compared to the freshman students. The senior women however, showed weakening in the same muscles, compared even with the freshmen, as well as weaker muscles all around the ankle. They also had significantly worse balance.
These findings suggest that at first, the ankle adapts to the stress caused by the new shoes with increased strength, but that same stress deteriorates the ankle over time. Strength imbalances in muscles around joints are a known trigger for injury, and weakened ankles increase risk to hamstrings and the upper leg as well.
The researchers suggested that those who must wear heels should engage in frequent ankle strengthening exercises, as well as removing the heels when they sit down.