Attention Heel Lovers: Injuries caused by high-heels doubled

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heels and men

While we may love stilettos, they don’t love us. According to research, injuries related to high-heels have doubled between 2002 and 2012.

When high-heels hurt

New research from the University of Alabama at Birmingham shows that high-heeled-shoe-related injuries doubled between 2002 and 2012.

“Although high-heeled shoes might be stylish, from a health standpoint, it would be worthwhile for those interested in wearing high-heeled shoes to understand the risks and the potential harm that precarious activities in high-heeled shoes can cause,” said lead investigator Gerald McGwin, Ph.D., vice chair and professor of the Department of Epidemiology in the UAB School of Public Health.

High-heel health hazards

In addition to discomfort in the lower leg, ankle and foot, walking in high-heeled shoes has been shown to significantly reduce ankle muscle movement, step length, total range of movement and balance control.

Many studies have documented that the long-term use of high heels alters the neuromechanics of walking and places greater strain on the muscles and tendons of the lower legs, which can lead to musculoskeletal disorders later in life.

“Some historians suggest that high-heeled shoes have been around for nearly 300 years, and that medical professionals have been warning wearers about the dangers of such shoes for the same amount of time,” McGwin said. “While previous studies have confirmed that high heels are associated with lower extremity discomfort and musculoskeletal issues, there is very little information on the nature and frequency of these injuries, or which age groups were most affected.”

Who is most at risk?

McGwin’s team looked at data from the Consumer Product Safety Commission’s National Electronic Injury Surveillance System of injuries associated with wearing high heels seen in hospital emergency departments between 2002 and 2012.

There were 123,355 high-heel-related injuries seen during that period. The peak year for injuries was 2011, with more than 19,000. People between the ages of 20 and 29 were most likely to suffer an injury, followed by the 30-39 age group.

Type of injuries caused by high-heeled shoes

The vast majority of the injuries – more than 80 percent – were to the ankle or foot, with just under 20 percent involving the knee, trunk, shoulder, or head and neck. More than half were strains or sprains, with fractures accounting for 19 percent of all injuries.

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