The Negative Effects of High Heels on Your Feet

High heels are often seen as shoe-closet staples. Some people only break them out for a special event or a night out, incorporate heels in their daily work attire, or love the aesthetic and wear them even in casual settings. However, high heels place a lot of stress on your feet, leading to injury if you are not careful. We are not saying to ditch part of your shoe collection, only that it is essential to understand the risks of wearing heels and how to avoid them.

What about High-Heeled Shoe Designs Are Bad for Your Feet?

The primary goal of the high-heel design is to lift your heel and point your foot down to enhance the wearer’s slender look, but that foot position transfers a significant amount of pressure to the ball of your foot and worsens the higher the heel becomes. Many women can confirm that when they are online shoe shopping, there is often an option to filter by heel height:

  • Low – one to two inches
  • Medium – two to three inches
  • High – three to four inches
  • Ultra-High – four inches or taller

For the sake of this blog post, we’ll categorize high heels as shoes with a heel height of three inches or more. However, medium- and low-heeled shoes can still negatively impact you depending on your feet and personal health.

Appropriate shoes will evenly distribute your weight across the bottom of your foot, promoting comfort and health. But high heels create significant pressure by shifting much of your weight to the balls of your feet, which can cause many problems.

Chronic Foot Pain and Stress Fractures

These shoes also force your toes to bend where your toe bones meet the foot bones (the phalanges and metatarsal heads ), shifting the body’s natural padding from under the ball of the foot and contributing additional pressure to the area. The inflammation and pain from this pressure is metatarsalgia.

Over time, the force that the pressure from high heels places on your feet can cause the metatarsal bone(s) to break without sustaining any obvious trauma (i.e., a stress fracture).

Heel Pain and Increased Muscle Tension

Individuals who frequently wear high heels may experience calf-muscle tightness because the muscle has shortened. On its own, muscle tension can be uncomfortable, even painful. Furthermore, it can also cause heel pain.

When you return to wearing flatter shoes or walking barefoot, those tense muscles stretch so your foot can sit flat on the more even surface, causing a painful pulling sensation along the back and bottom of your heel.

Toe and Toenail Deformities

Gravity causes your feet to slide down the slope of high heels, effectively jamming your toes in the toe of the shoe’s design. The higher the heel, the greater the pressure you put on your jammed, over-crowded toes. Pointed, closed-toe shoes increase the risk of foot deformities, such as:

The small, narrow toe box will also cause your toes to rub against each other and the shoe more often, increasing your toenails’ susceptibility to fungal infections.

All in all, these toe and toenail deformities are cosmetically unattractive and can become especially painful. Often, when these conditions become painful, there are only two treatment options: changing the type of shoe you wear/custom orthotics, or surgery.

Foot and Ankle Sprains and Fractures

Foot and ankle sprains and fractures are painful, disrupt daily life, and may require surgery.

High heels are famous for being an unstable, unsafe shoe choice. The instability makes it particularly easy to roll or sprain your ankle. The wearer must shift their weight backward and apply additional leg muscle power to stay balanced. As a shoe’s heel height increases, it is harder to maintain your balance, increasing the risk of injury.

Tips for Avoiding Foot and Ankle Injuries from High Heels

The American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons (AAOS) recommends that individuals do not wear shoes with heels higher than 2.25 inches. Additional tips for limiting your risk of foot and ankle injury include:

  • Balance-Enhancing Exercises
  • Foot, Ankle, and Leg Muscle Strengthening
  • Choose a Wider Toe Box
  • Keep the Heel Height to a Minimum
  • Consider an Open, Strappy Sandal Design
  • Limit How Long and Often You Wear High Heels

Manage Your Foot Health with Expert Podiatry Services

Foot and ankle ailments and injuries can impact our daily lives and well-being in countless ways. When patients schedule an appointment at The Foot & Ankle Center, they receive the care they need from our trusted podiatrists. Our healthcare professionals can help you improve and maintain your foot health so your life does not have to stop because of pain, physical limitations, or more.

To schedule a visit, please submit our online form at

You may also reach us by email at and by phone at (314) 487-9300.