Movin’ on Up (the chain) – Ankles and Knees

Well, hopefully we’ve established this much… heels and especially pointy-toe heels maaayyy not be the best choice of footwear for taking care of your feet. What about your ankles and knees?

High heels make your heels higher – I know, I’m dropping some serious knowledge with this statement! But seriously, this means that you are in the same position as if you are walking on your toes. The position of your ankle when walking on toes or toes pointed = Plantarflexion. I’m going to keep using this term, so remember that! The position of ankle plantarflexion places our calf muscles in a shortened position – over a long period of time in this shortened position, a muscle and its surrounding fascia will actually undergo structural changes and the result is Passive Tension. Passive Tension = Muscle Stiffness or Tightness. So, now you have “tight calf muscles.” What’s connected to the calf muscles – The Achilles’ Tendon. So, now you have a tight Achilles Tendon, combined with walking on your toes and calf muscle overuse – Possible achilles tendinitis anyone? What else can happen at the ankle? Have you ever seen those terrible videos that make you cringe and look quickly away from the screen? Of course, I mean those of a woman, walking down the street in high heels who steps in a crack and her heel gruesomely rolls and she falls down.. (see GIF on right 😳). Ankle plantarflexion (that fancy word again) puts our ankle in its “loose packed position.” The loose-packed position of ANY joint is where it is most UNSTABLE. Instability = poor control = much greater risk of ankle sprain/injury if stepping on an uneven surface.

Catwalk GIF

So, what about the knee?

One of the most commonly reported pains by women who wear high heels is pain in the front of the knee. There’s a reason for this! Because your heels make you walk on your toes, your body naturally recruits your quadriceps muscles more. More recruitment of quadriceps is a risk for patellofemoral pain (pain behind the knee cap) and patellar tendon pain. This may be especially true if you just started wearing heels for the first time. Women in heels also have more knee bend earlier in the gait cycle when walking. The second GIF on the right is a perfect example of this (plus instability, once again..)! Check out her knees – they are bent or in flexion the entire time she’s walking! This happens, because immediately after your heel hits the ground (heel strike) you must bend the knee to get your forefoot on the ground. Or the heel and toes have to hit the ground at the same time (as in the picture above). Otherwise, you’d be balancing on the tiny, pointy heel of heel, which I’m not sure is possible without breaking.. If it is, show me the proof, because I want to see it! This is important, because these 2 factors could very easily contribute to patellofemoral pain with chronic heel-wearing!

Now, I’m not telling you NOT to wear high heels, but there’s proof the dinosaurs did ⬇, and we all know what happened there…..
Believe it or not, it doesn’t stop here. The effects of heels continue up the body to the pelvis and spine! This may be one of the most overlooked but important factors as well. We’ll check it out next post! Share it with your chronic high-heel wearing friends – it may save their lives! Just ask the dinosaurs…