Monday, October 22, 2012

High-Heeled Shoes may Affect Long Term Muscle Efficiency and Function

While high-heeled shoes may be a fashionable choice of footwear for many women, habitual use of these shoes increases the risk of muscle fascicle strains and comprised muscle efficiency.  The structure of the shoe forces the foot into a plantar-flexed position.  This unnatural positioning of the foot shortens the medial gastrocnemius muscle fascicles and increases Achilles tendon stiffness.

Researchers at University of Jyväskylä in Finland and the Griffith University in Queensland, Australia studied 19 women, 9 of whom habitually wore heels (at least 40 hours per week over a minimum of 2 years) and 10 of whom rarely wore heels (less than 10 hours per week).  In addition to altering the length and stiffness of lower extremity muscles, habitual wear of high-heeled shoes increased the muscle activation of the tibialis anterior and soleus when walking in heels.  This increased level of activation is associated with decreased muscle efficiency.   When walking barefoot, the high-heeled shoe group exhibited higher muscle activation of the medial gastrocnemius during the stance phase of walking.  This trend indicates a chronic response to compensate for the altered muscle-tendon function.

Bottom line: It may be wise to limit the use of high-heeled shoes to special occasions in order to prevent chronic damage to the muscles and tendons that contribute to walking.

Read more about this study here.