Last week at the Cannes film festival, a group of middle-aged women were denied entry from a gala screening because they apparently were not wearing high heels. The women were instead wearing stylish flats due to various medical conditions that high heels simply did not support. The film festival is now receiving criticism from fans protesting against the festivals alleged sexist dress-code policy.
The film festival claims their official dress code does not state that women cannot wear high heels. However, as part of the tradition on the festival’s red carpet, women are expected to wear high heels and therefore is enforced by hosts and security guards at the event.
Health Effects of High Heels
What many people don’t realize about high heels is that other than being stylish, they can cause long-term medical conditions. In fact, high heels are one of leading causes of foot problems in women. Up to one-third of women who wear high heels suffer from permanent medical conditions as a result of prolonged wear. This is concerning because the majority of women wear high heels either to work or at social events and are often standing and walking in them for many hours throughout the day. About one in ten women wear high heels at least three days out of the week.
One of the main problems with wearing high heels regularly is that they can change and damage the alignment of the body. High heels clearly elevates the heels which puts more weight on the toes. This causes the body, and especially the pelvis, to lean forward. As a result of being in this position, the body has a natural instinct to stay upright and therefore subconsciously leans backward while overarching the back. This creates what feels like a more comfortable posture, however, is actually straining the lower back, knees, and hips. This may not seem noticeable if heels are only worn once in a while, but if they are worn often, you will eventually experience muscle tightness, weakness, lower back pain, and other aches and pains. These symptoms can even persist while not wearing heels.
Wearing high heels can also put pressure on the knees. This happens as a result of an uneven amount of weight being placed on the front part of the knee. This can cause knee pain and can even lead to arthritis. Arthritis is a condition that causes inflammation in one or more of the joints. For people who already have arthritis, it can make the condition even worse. If you have arthritis in the knees, high heels can worsen symptoms such as knee pain, joint inflammation, stiffness and swelling.
Foot Issues Caused by High Heels
High heels can also cause muscle spasms and nerve compression. If high heels are worn on a regular basis, they can eventually cause the calf muscles and lower back muscles to shorten in length. This can cause muscle spasms and significant pain. Additionally, high heels cause the back to overarch to make up for the position it puts the body in. This causes a posture in which the head remains forward and subsequently strains the neck muscles. Long-term, this can lead to sciatica, a condition which causes leg pain, tingling, numbness, or weakness, which begins in the lower back and travels through the buttock and down the large sciatic nerve in the back of the leg. The groin muscles and hip flexor muscles eventually tighten, causing the lower back and gluteal muscles to experience chronic spasm. This puts pressure on the sciatic nerve. Sciatica often eventually leads to other conditions such as spinal stenosis, lumbar herniated disc, or degenerative disc disease.
Other foot problems caused by wearing high heels include bunions, an unnatural foot shape, and plantar fasciitis. Plantar fasciitis is a painful condition that affects the heel and underside of the foot. It is one of the most common causes of heel pain. Whenever high heels are worn, the natural shape of the foot is restricted. This puts a person at risk of causing pain throughout the foot because when wearing high heels, there is an additional angle placed on the foot that increases the amount of pressure put on the parts that are restricted. If high heels are worn regularly, the Achilles tendon may even contract. This can strain the plantar fascia (the thick connective tissue which supports the arch on the bottom of the foot) and can cause painful inflammation.