5 Simple Steps To Decrease Foot Pain From Wearing High Heels

 

 

If I’ve said it once I’ve said it a thousand time…high heels are one of the worst inventions ever!  You’d be hard pressed to find any medical professional that will tell you that wearing high heel shoes is good for the health of your joints in your feet, legs, and low back.  Truth is, wearing high heels changes your standing posture by causing increased pressure on your joints, causing pain and injuries to your feet, knees, and low back.

So why am I writing anything beneficial about wearing high heels?  Because I know that no matter what, there will still be tons of women out there who will ignore my pleas to wear flats!  So if I can’t convince you to abandon high heels altogether, at least I can give you some tips on how to maximize the benefit and minimize the near-certain negative effects on your body.  Following 5 simple steps will give you the best chance reduce the risks of foot/ankle/knee/hip/low back issues in the future.  But please note…if you do happen to experience acute pain and swelling, then you must refrain from wearing high heels to allow your injury to heal.

 

1.  Stretch your calf

We know that wearing high heels causes shortening of the calf muscles as well as the Achilles tendon.  As these muscles and tendons shorten, they create a chain reaction of forces that pull on your heel where they attach, leading to foot and heel discomfort.  There are 2 main calf muscles that need to be stretched, the gastroc and soleus.  Hold each stretch for 20-30 seconds, and perform 3 repetitions.

Gastroc stretch:

 

Setup:
Begin in a standing upright position in front of a wall.

Movement:
Place your hands on the wall and extend one leg straight backward, bending your front leg, until you feel a stretch in the calf of your back leg and hold.

Tip:
Make sure to keep your heels on the ground and back knee straight during the stretch.

Soleus stretch:

 

 

Setup:
Begin in a standing upright position in front of a wall.


Movement:
Place your hands on the wall and extend one leg backward with your knee bent. Lean forward into the wall, until you feel a stretch in your lower calf and hold.


Tip:
Make sure to keep your heels on the ground and back knee bent during the stretch.                   

 

2.  Massage your foot and calf muscles

Wearing high heels often causes tightness of the calf muscles due to placing them in a shortened position as previously stated.  You can use a massage ball or lacrosse ball to massage the muscles of your foot and calf to ease muscular tension and decrease discomfort.

 

3.  Strengthen your toes

Toes play a critical role in balance when it comes to walking in high heels.  By maintaining mobility and strength in your toes, you should be able to counter the adverse effects of wearing high heels.  Try these exercises:

Towel scrunch

 

Setup:
Sit in a chair with one foot resting on a flat towel.
Movement:
Spread your toes to scrunch up the towel, pulling the towel toward you.
Tip:
Make sure to keep the rest of your foot in contact with the ground.  Perform for 1-2 minutes per foot.

 

Seated great toe extension:

 

Setup:
Begin sitting upright in a chair with your feet resting flat on the floor.
Movement:
Lift your big toe straight up, keeping your other toes flat on the ground.
Tip:
Make sure to keep your other toes relaxed and keep the heel and the ball of your foot on the ground.  Repeat 20-30 times on each foot.

 

Seated lesser toes extension:

 

Setup:
Begin sitting upright in a chair with your feet resting flat on the floor.
Movement:
Lift your lesser toes up, keeping your big toe flat on the ground.
Tip:
Make sure to keep your big toe relaxed and keep the heel and the ball of your foot on the ground.  Repeat 20-30 times on each foot.

 

 

4.  Create balance in your ankle muscles

It is not uncommon to have decreased strength in the muscles in your outer calf that keeps your ankle aligned when wearing high heels, leading to potential ankle sprains.  By balancing the strength in your ankle muscles, you will help to maintain correct alignment in your leg and ankle, leading to diminished stress to your knees while wearing high heels.  The following simple exercise will strengthen your calf while helping to align and activate the muscles necessary to correct ankle alignment.  This will lead to improved balance and stability when walking in high heels.

Heel raises with tennis ball:

 

 

Setup:                                                                                                                                                      Begin standing near a wall, table, kitchen counter, etc., for support. Place a tennis ball between your ankles with your toes pointed straight ahead (facing the wall or counter).

Movement:                                                                                                                                        Squeeze the tennis ball with your ankles as you slowly raise your heels off the ground , then slowly lower back down.

Tip:                                                                                                                                                            Relax your ankles in between repetitions. Try to keep your toes relaxed as you raise up on the balls of your feet. Perform 20-30 times.

 

5.  Strengthen your core

A strong, active core is essential for maintaining correct posture while walking in high heels.  To help strengthen your abdominal gluteal muscles (necessary for maintaining proper posture while wearing high heels), try the following exercise:

Bridging:

 

Setup:
Begin lying on your back with your arms resting at your sides, your legs bent at the knees and your feet flat on the ground.

 

Movement:
Tighten your abdominals and glutes (butt muscles), and slowly lift your hips off the floor into a bridge position, keeping your back straight.  Breathe out as you lift up (don’t hold your breath!). Slowly lower back down.
Tip:
Make sure to keep your trunk stiff throughout the exercise and your arms flat on the floor.  The movement should be slow and controlled.  Start off with 2 sets of 12-15 repetitions.

 

Everyone is unique and has their own strengths and weaknesses that can lead to potential injury.  It is extremely important to be assessed by a medical professional who is the expert in terms of musculoskeletal issues, namely, a Physical Therapist.  That way you will be provided  with an individualized and personalized exercise program to include mobility and strengthening, thus helping you to counter the adverse effects of wearing high heels and allowing you to maintain a healthy and active lifestyle.

Do you or someone you know have questions on how to get started with designing an individualized exercise program? Call my office at once at (302)691-9055 or visit my website at www.wildermanphysicaltherapy.com to schedule your FREE 30 minute consultation to see how Physical Therapy can help. Don’t delay–schedule now!

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