High heels are one of fashion’s cruelest faces. They cause more pain and problems than any other article of clothing or fashion must have.
For 300 years high heels have been the essential glamour look for women across the entire social spectrum. They are also required work wear for many women. So there’s no doubt about it, they are here to stay.
Here are some things to do to minimize the problems associated with high heels.
Bigger is not necessarily better
Don’t buy the biggest heels you can stay upright in. Even a small reduction in height can make a large, long term difference to your feet, calves and low back. Consider comfort as well as looks when you buy.
If you have to wear them for work, go to and come home in joggers or something else less challenging. They may not look so glamorous on the train or bus, but no one else cares they feel so much better to wear.
Glamorous social occasions don’t happen all that often in most peoples lives so go ahead and wear the heels for those special nights out. Just stretch your calves when you get home.
Stretch Your Calves
Counteract the time you spend in heels with plenty of calf stretching. This is a must do and very effective strategy, make use of it often. High heels force your foot to bend down. Because the heel moves up, the calf muscles shorten and tighten.
Tight Is Bad
So the tendency with wearing high heels is for your calves to become tight. Tight calves give rise to a host of other mechanical strains. Tight calves can cause pain in the feet, calves, knees, upper leg, pelvis, lower back, upper back and neck.
If you wear heels a fair bit, there will also be the tendency for your toes to become clawed. This happens partly because of the tight calves, partly because of gravity, partly because of the tight plantar fascia and partly because of gripping with the toes because of the instability caused by raising the heel.
Remember, everything connects to, and effects everything else. So keep stretching your calves.
There are 4 things you can do to reduce or avoid the detrimental effects of long term high heel use.
- Stop wearing high heels. Or, if you simply must,
- Wear the smallest heel you can get away with.
- Don’t wear them when you don’t need to.
- Compensate by doing lots of calf and plantar fascia stretches.
There are many ways to stretch your calves. My favourite is the Calf Step Stretch.
When you stretch your, calf you need to stretch once with your knee ‘straight’, or nearly straight, to stretch the top muscle, gastrocnemius (gastroc), and once with your knee bent to target the deeper, lower soleus.
Gastroc crosses the knee and the ankle and soleus only crosses the ankle. They work slightly differently so they need to be stretched slightly differently.
Stretch for balance
When you stretch your calves, start and finish on the tighter side. The chances are your right calf is tighter than your left. Pay attention when you stretch, always feel for the tighter side. And stretch that side more to balance things out. Always stretch for balance.
If you wear high heels, stretch your calves
I see plenty of problems caused by both of these muscles so you definitely need to stretch both of them for best results. Especially if you wear high heels.