Have you ever noticed how some women can wear high-heels for 8 hours a day with no pain, while others can only bear 20 minutes in them? Thankfully, I am blessed and I can wear heels for extended periods of time with little discomfort. But I am seriously the only one I know who can tolerate them for that long. Why is that?!
Well, now science can explain this phenomenon. Marco Narici of Manchester Metropolitan University in Britain was determined to find out what happens to heel-wears and why they can stand being pushed on to their tiptoes. When you wear heels, your heels are pushed up, which in turn shortens your calf muscles. The muscles shorten in order to adjust for the new elevation. As other research has shown, continual contractions of muscles can cause a permanent contraction of the muscle. (Think along the lines of poor posture from being crouched over a computer.)
If this was possible, then Narici insisted that there must be physical difference in the calves of women who wear heels and those who don’t. He collected a group of women wear stilettos with a heel of two or more inches, five times and have worn them for the past two years. The other group was a control group of women who wore them on occasion, but not excessively.
Narici compared the calf muscle volume of each woman using MRI. Because the heels force the calves into a shorten position, Narici believed that a heel-wearer’s calves would be proportionally smaller; however, his research surprisingly proved otherwise. Yet, the muscle fibers, on average, were 13% shorter in heel-wearers.
He also noticed that the Achilles’ tendons in heel-wearers was drastically shorter, thicker, and stiffer. This proved to be a result of a compensation for the force that was lost due to shorter calves. The Achilles’ tendon is also the reason why many experience discomfort.
Overtime, heels become more comfortable because the calves become forced into a shorter position and begin to stiffen. This is why heel-worshipers find it extremely painful to wear flat shoes since their calves won’t stretch out.
In order to prevent the shortening of calf muscles, Narici suggests to consistently do calf stretches. Another option would be not to wear heels, but we all know how impractical and silly that is!
Wearing heels can also induce other posture and leg problems, such as hammertoes and bunions. Click here to view a diagram of the leg and read about other problems.