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Ask Dr. Wright: How Do I Wear Heels Without Hurting Myself?

Plenty of research has been done on the negative impact of wearing high heeled shoes, but is there a way to rock your stilettos without spraining your ankle? This post includes tips on how to wear your favorite Manolos without damaging your feet (or taking a tumble).

Strengthen Your Calves and Core

It is true that wearing heels can put you at risk for foot pain and falls, so if you want to wear them safely, you’ll have to add a little extra to your exercise routine. Strengthening your calf muscles and core, or abdomen, will help to give your body the stability it needs to balance in high heels. 

To strengthen your calves, try adding calf raises to your workout routine. There are a few variations of this same exercise, but to perform a basic calf raise, you:

  1. Stand with your feet hip-width apart, making sure your knees, ankles and hips are in vertical alignment. For safety, stand near a wall or other solid surface that you can use for balance as needed.
  2. While maintaining your balance, gently shift your weight to the balls of your feet, keeping your core muscles engaged. Try to relax your toes.
  3. Raise your body upward so that both heels are elevated off the ground. 
  4. Slowly return to your starting position. 
  5. Repeat steps 1 through 4 in a series of 3 sets of 10 to 15 reps each.

There are several different exercises to help you strengthen your core. “Planking” has become a popular exercise and is relatively easy to do. Assume a push-up position, but instead of palms on the floor, place your forearms on the floor in a “V” shape. Hold this position for as long as you can without arching your back (sagging) or sticking your backside in the air. It’s called a “plank” for a reason. You will be activating almost all of your muscles. Celebrate when you can hold this for 2 minutes by trying some variations.

As with any exercise, the more you work on these, the easier they will become. Soon, you’ll be able to do more calf raises at once, maybe even while holding free weights in your hands, and your body will be able to hold the plank position for much longer.

Give Your Feet a Break

No matter how much you work out your calves, it’s still important to give them–and your feet–a break from high heels every once in awhile. Research shows that the longer you wear your heels, the higher your risk for impaired balance and diminished ankle strength (International Journal of Clinical Practice).

So if you’re someone who wears heels to work everyday, try switching to flats one or two days per week or even keeping a pair of comfy athletic shoes around while you sit at your desk.

If you know you have a special dinner or event that evening, you might skip wearing heels during the day so you can rock your stilettos all evening long.

Opt for Thicker Heels

The thicker the heel, the more balance and support your ankles will have. You should also look for shoes with thicker soles and platforms, as these give you more support than something thinner. Besides, thick heels are a great fashion statement, so this one’s a win-win.

Check-In With Your Doctor

If you’re experiencing persistent back or foot pain, talk to an orthopedic specialist or podiatrist to make sure there aren’t any underlying medical concerns that could be causing your pain. Your doctor can also provide an accurate diagnosis of the cause of your pain, as well as suggest treatment and pain prevention plans.

The Bottom Line

High heels can help a woman feel strong and powerful, so if you love wearing them, by all means, go for it. You don’t have to cut them out of your wardrobe, but you do have to make sure you’ve put the work in to strengthen your muscles and improve your balance so you can have your cake and eat it too!

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