Why Wearing High Heels May Harm Your Feet


Written by Anthea Noel, RN

Emergency rooms are flooded with women of all ages experiencing injuries due to the long-term and short-term use of high heels. Throughout the years, women’s shoes have taken on different shapes and styles that date back to the 1400’s. Presently the styles of high heels or “heels” as they are now commonly referred to as are dependent on the season’s fashion forecast. No matter the seasonal trend, there is just something about high heels that make some women feel sexier and invincible. But it’s not without its risks.

Podiatrists and orthopedic surgeons are witnessing more damage caused by prolonged walking and standing in heels.

Short-Term Complications  

Ankle fractures and sprains are common injuries resulting from walking, standing and running in high heels.  As a result of these injuries, rehabilitative and in some cases surgical intervention is required. Most commonly known as “Weekend Warriors” these are women who usually wear high heels during the weekend for a couple of nights of fun out on the town. Many times the thinnest, highest heel in the closet is sought out to compliment that little black dress. It is not recommended to wear high heels if there is discomfort while standing or walking in them. Additional complications associated with short-term high heel use include:

  • Acute ankle injury (sprain, fracture, twist)
  • Falls
  • Trauma to the foot
  • Pain (acute or chronic)
  • Loss of balance
  • Callouses

Long-Term Complications  

Have you ever done a double take when you see an elderly woman donning high heels? I often blame it on vanity, however, I may have been mistaken according to physical and occupational therapists. After many years of wearing high heels, the Achilles tendon shortens making it difficult to stand with the foot flat on the ground. Wearing heels reduce the pain experienced in the area spanning from your heel to your mid-calf because the foot is in a tip-toe position. This tendon is the largest and strongest tendon in the body and is primarily responsible for your ability to walk, run, and stand on tiptoe. Additional complications associated with long-term high heels use include:

  • Distal metatarsal and phalanges joint damage and pain (ball of the foot)
  • Back pain and vertebral damage
  • Foot pain
  • Knee pain (due to lack of shock absorption)

There are alternatives to high heels, which may be safer for the heel novice. Beauty does not have to be sacrificed for safety. Thick heels, shoes with a wider toe box, platforms, wedges, and alternating with sneakers or orthopedic shoes are all safer and more practical alternatives and lessen the chance of injury. It is important to know your body and your limitations. Opt for comfort over style and if you can have both it is a win-win situation. Remember to try on shoes before purchase preferably in the evening when the feet are largest due to the gravitational flow of fluid to the lower extremities from a day of walking or standing.

We can enjoy heels however we must be cautious. I love high heels however I am more cognizant of my overall health and comfort always wins over vanity. A spare pair of comfortable, flexible ballerina flats can be found in my purse at all times and I have also invested in shoe cushions and orthotics like gel soles from my local pharmacy for comfort. Remember, we are all invincible and beautiful with or without high heels.

Anthea “Nurse Noel” Noel RN, BSN, MS, SANE, has comforted and placed smiles on the faces of her patients and their families for over 20 years as a professional Registered Nurse. As a writer for over 22 years in the entertainment industry, she has successfully entertained through television, music, and the big screen. Anthea merged her two loves of Health and Entertainment coining the phrase “Health Entertainment” after a friend encouraged her to do so after the death of her fiancé’ and Nurse Noel was born. In her journey through the health entertainment world, Nurse Noel was able to serve as a writer for various magazines as well as bringing health to television with style and flair as an on-air and Red carpet Health expert. Nurse Noel recently penned a book ‘Help Me to Help You While I Help Myself in the Process’ where she continues to spread the message of health and wellness to the masses. She is the senior staff writer for Heart and Soul magazine, Fit Box, Cassiuslife, O Magazine, Contributor for the Dr. Oz, and Health Corps. Nurse Noel continues to work as a Registered Nurse specialist in the fast-paced high-intensity department of the intensive care unit at the Level 1 trauma center UMDNJ Hospital in Newark NJ. Noel also works for the District attorney for Essex County as a Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner assisting in forensic nursing for Sexual assault survivors. She may also be seen on various media outlets weighing in on various health topics. Nurse Noel is determined to help those in need with a goal of making this world Healthier and Happier one person at a time.