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article imageStudy shows why some women are most comfortable in high heels

By Lynn Curwin     Jul 17, 2010 in Science
Women who usually wear high heels sometimes find flat shoes uncomfortable. Now researchers believe they know why, and they have a suggestion they believe will help.
Researchers at Manchester Metropolitan University have found that wearing high-heels most of the time can cause changes in the calf muscle and tendons. They discovered that, because high heels cause the calf muscles to be held in a contracted position, the shoes result in women with shorter calf muscles and thicker and stiffer Achilles tendons. These changes results in discomfort when the women walk flat-footed.
Marco Narici, a researcher with the university, came up with the idea of testing women’s calf muscles.
“I thought it was an experiment which was inadvertently being done by women,” Scientific Computing quoted him as saying.
The researchers placed an ad in the Manchester Evening News to find volunteers. They compared women who regularly wore high heels, and felt uncomfortable without them, with women who did not wear high heels.
Using ultrasound, they found women who wore high heels had muscle fibres 13% shorter than those who wore flat shoes. Scanning with MRI, they learned that the Achilles’ tendon in the women who constantly wore high heels had become thicker and stiffer, although it was the same length as in women who wore flat shoes. When the high heel wearers walked flat-footed their tendon was unable to stretch enough for them to be comfortable.
Narici does not think women should stop wearing high heels. According to an article in The Telegraph, he feels exercises to combat the effects of the heels should be sufficient. He suggested standing on tip toes and lowering the heels up and down about 20 times a day.
Manchester Metropolitan University and the University of Vienna funded the study.
High heels are not the only shoes which can cause problems. Live Science reported that a 2008 study found that constantly wearing flips flops also causes problems. When the toes are scrunched to keep the footwear on while the heels lifts, the connective tissue running from heel to toe is stretched, causing pain, inflammation, heel spurs and tired feet.
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