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Saturday, July 17, 2010

Why U Shouldn't Wear High Heels

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Women who habitually wear high heels have shorter muscle fibers in their calves and thicker Achilles' tendons than those who walk in flat shoes, researchers say. The result? The heel lovers’ tendons stiffen and become harder to stretch, which could explain why walking hurts after kicking off the Jimmy Choos, according to a small study published in the Journal of Experimental Biology.

Stilettos may be sexy, but raising the back of the foot forces the calf muscles to contract. When a limb is held in a contracted position over time, the muscles shorten.

To see if wearing high heels had the same shortening effect on calf muscles, the researchers recruited 11 women who had been wearing 5 centimeter heels for at least two years and who felt uncomfortable walking without them. They compared the heel wearers with a control group of 9 other (far more sensible) women who did not wear high heels.

One surprising finding was that both groups of women had similar sized calf muscles. But the researchers also found that wearing heels affected muscle fiber length--the high heel wearers' muscle fibers were 13 percent shorter than those who wore flat shoes.

The Achilles' tendon, meanwhile--which attaches the calf muscle to the heel--compensated by growing bulkier and tighter. For some women, once the heels come off, the pain starts because the muscles can't stretch enough, the researchers said.

Wearing a variety of different types of shoes and stretching may help alleviate the pain, according to the study authors. But Chicago podiatrist Steve Weinberg, who was not involved with the study, questioned whether it's possible to stretch the Achilles tendon enough to make a clinical difference.

"The elasticity of tendinous tissue may always be improved by stretching exercise, although this may prove to be tedious work once tendons have already stiffened," said study co-author Robert Csapo of the University of Vienna. "Presumably, prevention is better than cure."

Ditching high heels, an extremely unlikely solution, could also reduce a number of other hazards, including nerve damage, ankle sprains from toppling over and exacerbating pre-existing conditions in the toes, such as bunions, hammertoes and nerve damage.

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