Ergonomic Nightmare of the Week: High Heels

All women, (and many men) have worn high heels at one time or another. Some women (like myself) avoid them at all costs. Some are forced to wear them to work; others, wear them every chance they get, the higher the better.

But high heels are definitely one of those things that choose form over function. High heels are in fact, an absolute ergonomic nightmare.

The question is, why do we continue to torture ourselves? I would be perfectly happy if high heels were banned from this earth. High heels really do not serve any practical function, and they only look good because we have established a standard of fashion and beauty that says that they do. What if we decided that a woman’s foot perched unnaturally atop a teetering platform on a stick did not look good? We no longer think that foot binding is a good idea, so there is no reason why we couldn’t change our minds about high heels.

Unfortunately, I don’t think high heels are going away any time soon.


Experts Issue More Health Warnings Against Sexy High Heels


Several experts renewed health warnings against high heels that underline the ergonomic argument against these fashion accessories, which centers on the damage they can do to the musculoskeletal system. From Britain comes the news that women are in particular danger if they are wearing stilettos when they have a few drinks “under the belt.”

Writing from the Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation Department at the Mayo Clinic for The Eagle newspaper in Texas, Jeffrey Brault, D.O., P.T., said shoes with stiletto heels aren’t designed with walking in mind. With heels 2 inches or taller, the foot slides forward, cramming the toes into the front of the shoe. That can cause hammer toes, a deformity in which the toes curl at the middle joint. If they are worn frequently, stilettos can contribute to bunions, corns, calluses and toenail problems. He noted that stiletto heels also change the mechanics of the gait. Tiny heels hit the ground with a force several times the body weight, causing knee pain. They also change the center of gravity, meaning the wearer has to arch the back to stay balanced. That arching can cause lower back pain, he said.

Martin Shalley, president of the British Association for Emergency Medicine, said high heels could definitely lead to serious injuries and that “alcohol and heels are a bad mix.”

Related article: Healthy High Heels – a Futile Pursuit?