Does Wearing High-Heeled Shoes Increase the Risk of Knee Arthritis?

Do you have a closet full of strappy heels that you enjoy wearing to work? Many women slip on heels because they make their legs look longer, and they feel slimmer when they slide their feet into them, but they do nothing good for your knees and joints. According to a new study carried out at Iowa State University, slipping on a pair of sky high heels could lead to early joint degeneration and arthritis.

High-heeled shoes and the risk of knee arthritis

Walking around in high heels puts too much force on the inner aspect of the knee. When knees are forced to bear this additional stress, it leads to premature degeneration of the knee. The consequences? Pain and discomfort that makes it harder to do the things you enjoy, and it makes it difficult to run on a treadmill or do squats at the gym. You need your knees for a lifetime and wearing high heels puts additional wear and tear on them they don’t need.

Early knee degeneration isn’t the only problem. Another study published in the journal Arthritis Care and Research showed that wearing high heels also contributes to heel and ankle pain. Lower heeled shoes, especially athletic shoes, have padded soles that absorb some of the impact of walking. High heels don’t. That means your heels and ankles have to bear the force of your feet slapping the pavement when you walk.

Other reasons not to wear heels

There’s another reason not to wear high heels – walking around in them can cause sore feet. Feet aren’t made to be forced into an angle and to have to maintain that angle while weight bearing. Plus, your risk of injury goes up when you amble around all day with your foot in an unnatural position. How many twisted ankles are a direct consequence of wearing shoes with heels that are too high?

Wearing high heels can even impact your body weight – at least indirectly. When you walk around in high heels, you’re forced to walk more slowly and take shorter strides. This reduces the number of calories you burn. Research shows that people move around more and walk faster when they wear a comfortable pair of shoes.

The bottom line?

Who needs osteoarthritis of the knee, sore feet or an ankle injury? Keep your high heels for special occasions, and stick with lower heels for work or when you’re out and about during the day. If you’re running errands, wear a pair of exercise shoes. That way you can walk briskly or jog through the parking lot and burn more calories. Keep your high heels in the back of your closet for those special occasions where you need a dressier shoe – and for times when you don’t have to walk around too long.


On Fitness magazine. Vol. 11, No. 3. November/December 2010.

Science Daily. “High-Heels Linked To Heel and Ankle Pain”

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