The Health Dangers Of ‘Cute’ Shoes

A businesswoman wearing a suit and high heels sitting at her desk

The health dangers…of high heels?

Millions of women wear high heels almost every day.  But what most don’t know is that they’re routinely putting themselves at risk of permanent physiological damage to their knees, hips, back and tendons. Yeah, high heels are cute, but these shoes can harm so much more than your feet.

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Each foot has 26 bones, 33 joints, 107 ligaments, 19 muscles, nearly 200,000 nerve endings and countless blood vessels. Why then do so many people jam or strap their feet into killer shoes that wreak such havoc on this key body part?

Marilyn Monroe once said, “I don’t know who invented high heels, but all women owe him a lot.” But what she didn’t realize was that a lot of women can attribute whoever started this age-old trend to their health problems. Sky-high heels, too-low flats, arch-less flip-flops and pointy or wrong-sized shoes can cause deformed toes, painful bumps and bunions, inflamed nerves or bones, torn or overstretched ligaments, even hairline fractures.


Dangerous Elegance: How’d It Start?

Controversy exists over when high heels were first invented, but the consensus is that heels were worn by both men and women throughout the world for many years. It wasn’t until the 16th century when it is claimed that high heels were properly invented. But the history of high heels can actually be traced back to Egypt, 3500BC, where murals on walls show upper class citizens wearing heels for ceremonial purposes, as well as Egyptian butchers wearing them to help them walk through the blood of dead animals.  The origin of the high heel goes back many centuries in history. The first precursors of stiletto heels were discovered in a tomb of Tebas in Old Egypt, and date from 1000 BC. In later years, high heels would prove to be a symbol of status among European aristocracy.

Today’s Heel Revival

Women in the 21st century have more shoe choices than ever before. From athletic wear to the 2006 “heelless” high heel from Manolo Blahnik, women can choose to wear what they want, even hybrid shoes such as “heeled” tennis shoes and flip flops. What is certain is that heels have not disappeared.  Some women even do as much as go under the knife to shorten their toes or inject padding into the balls of their feet to allow their feet to fit more comfortably into a pair of stilettos. While these may be oddities of fashion, they gesture toward an exciting array of fashion choices women have today.

What Women Love About High Heels

High heels have their fashionable advantages for women. The very fact that a man designed the unique style of these shoes leads to the reality that they can enhance the attractiveness of a woman. High heels can make her:

  • Calves look firmer and more pronounced
  • Lower leg muscles more defined
  • Legs look longer
  • Butt look more rounded and pronounced
  • Feet look smaller
  • Look taller
  • Feet and toes look smaller
  • Walk seductively in short and tipping strides
  • Posture more upright causing her to even push out her busts

The higher the heels the greater these advantages will be, and at the same time the physical health hazards will increase.

The Dangers


Wearing heels is an art and women deserve medals for learning to walk in them (let alone run!). When a woman is walking in heels, she is basically walking on the balls of her feet. The ball of the foot will experience intense pressure, and this pressure more than doubles with every inch in height of shoe heel. Ankle injuries are always a threat and the degree of injuries can extend from sprains to fractures. Calluses, corns and bunions can be formed on feet due to high heels, especially if the shoes are tight, tough or walked in for long periods.

Metatarsalgia is a condition affecting the ball of the foot, where all the weight is concentrated on when a woman is in heels. Hammertoes is a condition where the toes are maintained downward curled position because of the continual confinement of the feet in the high heels. The muscles of the feet become tight and are unable to stretch and straighten when out of the shoes.

A pump bump can be recognized on the heel where the straps of high heels are wrapped around. The straps cause intense friction on the heel causing that nuisance of a bump to form. Women may complain of numbness, sharp pain and burning in the toes and ball of the foot when wearing high heeled shoes – all of which are symptoms of Morton’s Neuroma. Morton’s Neuroma is the inflammation of the tissue surrounding the nerve between the 3rd and 4rth toe.


High heels cause much more pressure to be exerted on the knees. The force that causes such pressure is more than what the knees are designed for, and can give rise to a condition called osteoarthritis.


Consider that when you tip you cause all your weight to be projected towards the ball of your feet. You will involuntarily…