Hard Knocks and High Heels

Taylor & Francis

Many people consider high heeled shoes an essential part of a fashionable outfit. But could this fashion choice have serious consequences on an individual’s health? According to a new study published in Ergonomics, regardless of the past experience of the wearer, high heel elevation not only impacts balance, but also functional mobility.

To find out the extent of this impact, scientists devised a series of tests to assess how different heel heights and levels of wearing experience can separately affect the wearer. The authors divided the groups into ranges of experience and heel height. Four pairs of shoes were used with heel heights of 1cm (flat), 4cm (low), 7cm (medium), and 10cm (high). Thirty participants with mixed levels of experience tried all of the shoes over a range of different tasks designed to quantify an individual’s ability to maintain standing balance in a variety of complex sensory conditions. They also examined the basic functional mobility that would be required for performing activities of daily living, assessing balance control and fall risks.

The results showed that the heel elevation induces more effort from lower limb muscles (particularly calf muscles) and results in worse functional mobility starting at 7 cm heel height. With the heel height increased to 10 cm, the standing balance becomes even worse.

Experienced wearers did not show significantly better overall performance on standing balance and functional mobility, even though they have larger maximum excursion and better directional control. These findings can enhance the understanding of biomechanical challenges imposed on the human body while wearing high heels and help to further establish safety footwear recommendations for improving human balance and fall prevention.

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* Read the full article online:http://tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/00140139.2015.1068956