Heel Hell: New Technology Reveals the Exact Effects of Stilettos On the Sole

High Heel Shoes Create Foot Havoc

Over the last 10 years, the evolution of heels has progressed to a teetering, new-born calf level of height which any stilt walker would be happy to admire. For those of us more down to earth, finding a striking, yet comfortable heel can be a harrowing experience as we rummage through bedazzled, latex leather, and even feathered horrors. Yet, even when we finally find that delectable suede leather pump with the 1950’s wing-back accent, we must walk head over heels in denial, as it’s no secret heels throw our ankles, knees, and backs out of their proper alignment.

So, why do women still wear them? In case you needed a visual presentation of exactly what high heels are doing to your feet, the Royal National Orthopedic Hospital in the U.K. has recently released a 3D scanning technology that allows them to determine each factor affecting your soles. The results aren’t surprising, albeit slightly disturbing.

As you can see, the pressure is placed entirely on the balls of the foot causing strain on the ligaments found throughout the ankle, and ultimately leads to minor tears that worsen with time. In addition, the heels squish the toes, forcing the foot into an unnatural position for extended periods of time.



“There is an established link between high heels and foot pain, but for the first time we are able to see the effect of such shoes on feet in real time,” said RNOH consultant, orthopedic surgeon Dr. Andy Goldberg. “In moderation, high heels are fine; it’s when worn day-in day-out that problems could develop.”

For those die-hard fashionistas, don’t fret; you can still look flawless as long as your heels are under three inches, according to Podiatrist Dr. Emily Splichal. “Anything over the three-inch mark changes the biomechanics of how you walk — your strides are shortened, you can’t walk as fast, your body weight shifts to the ball of the foot, which throws off your center of gravity and stresses the knees and lower back,” she explains in an interview with Instyle magazine.

Several Shoe Designers Have Mastered The Art Of The Healthy High Heel, Like Aetrex


Many of their most popular pumps allow the heel to be supported without cramming the toes into a narrow toe box, and alleviate concentrated pressure on the balls of the feet. Top that with their signature braided leather strap, and you’ve got a pair of heels that not only look good but make you feel good, too.

Other companies, like Dansko, have also readily found the key to comfortable, yet dressy heels for women who may spend the majority of their day on their feet.


Teachers, nurses, and full-time shopping queens flock to their heeled sandals, which provide support paired with chic leather uppers. In fact, some of their collections even feature a roll-bar near the ball of the foot, allowing a graceful step that accentuates your stride.

As evidentiary support for the links between foot pain and “unhealthy” heels grows, shoe companies devoted to crafting healthier alternatives give customers the support they need without sacrificing the aesthetics. For an inside look, check out this 3D rendered video to finally see exactly what’s going on right under your feet.


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