Women adapt effectively and minimally to wearing high heels
Seven articles on PainSci cite Csapo 2010: 1. The Trouble with Chairs 2. The Complete Guide to Trigger Points & Myofascial Pain 3. Does Posture Matter? 4. The Complete Guide to Low Back Pain 5. The Complete Guide to Patellofemoral Pain Syndrome 6. Complete Guide to Plantar Fasciitis 7. 35 Surprising Causes of Pain
PainSci commentary on Csapo 2010: ?This page is one of thousands in the PainScience.com bibliography. It is not a general article: it is focused on a single scientific paper, and it may provide only just enough context for the summary to make sense. Links to other papers and more general information are provided wherever possible.
High heels are often vilified, but this carefully done 2010 study showed that the body adapts effectively and minimally, producing quite similar functional results. The most interesting implication of their results is simply that “muscle structure may adapt to a chronic change in functional demand” — which might seem obvious, but that little bit of science has been hard to nail down over the years, and this is a good piece of the puzzle.
Chronic high-heel wearers do have shortened calf muscles, stiffer Achilles tendons, and a smaller ankle range of motion, but these changes “seem to counteract each other since no significant differences in static or dynamic torques were observed.” In other words, high heel wearers are not progressively disabled: their ankles work fine, just differently. This doesn’t mean there’s no conceivable harm (for instance, Kerrigan found evidence of harm to the knees), but it does tend to downgrade concern on the topic.
~ Paul Ingraham
original abstract †Abstracts here may not perfectly match originals, for a variety of technical and practical reasons. Some abstacts are truncated for my purposes here, if they are particularly long-winded and unhelpful. I occasionally add clarifying notes. And I make some minor corrections.
Wearing high heels (HH) places the calf muscle-tendon unit (MTU) in a shortened position. As muscles and tendons are highly malleable tissues, chronic use of HH might induce structural and functional changes in the calf MTU. To test this hypothesis, 11 women regularly wearing HH and a control group of 9 women were recruited. Gastrocnemius medialis (GM) fascicle length, pennation angle and physiological cross-sectional area (PCSA), the Achilles' tendon (AT) length, cross-sectional area (CSA) and mechanical properties, and the plantarflexion torque-angle and torque-velocity relationships were assessed in both groups. Shorter GM fascicle lengths were observed in the HH group (49.6+/-5.7 mm vs 56.0+/-7.7 mm), resulting in greater tendon-to-fascicle length ratios. Also, because of greater AT CSA, AT stiffness was higher in the HH group (136.2+/-26.5 N mm(-1) vs 111.3+/-20.2 N mm(-1)). However, no differences in the GM PCSA to AT CSA ratio, torque-angle and torque-velocity relationships were found. We conclude that long-term use of high-heeled shoes induces shortening of the GM muscle fascicles and increases AT stiffness, reducing the ankle's active range of motion. Functionally, these two phenomena seem to counteract each other since no significant differences in static or dynamic torques were observed.
This page is part of the PainScience BIBLIOGRAPHY, which contains plain language summaries of thousands of scientific papers & others sources. It’s like a highly specialized blog. A few highlights:
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- Characteristics of patients with low back and leg pain seeking treatment in primary care: baseline results from the ATLAS cohort study. Konstantinou 2015 BMC Musculoskelet Disord.
- Effectiveness and cost-effectiveness of universal school-based mindfulness training compared with normal school provision in reducing risk of mental health problems and promoting well-being in adolescence: the MYRIAD cluster randomised controlled trial. Kuyken 2022 Evid Based Ment Health.
- Is there a relationship between throbbing pain and arterial pulsations? Mirza 2012 J Neurosci.