The Real Pain of High Heels

Regardless of whether you wear heels for work or for play, if you wear them regularly, your feet would like to send you an important message: OUCH. If you can’t imagine living without your favorite stilettos, we here at Jersey Foot & Ankle Institute implore you take just a few minutes to read this post.

Dr. Ankur Dharia has treated plenty of problems that occurred in large part because of high heels. He encourages you to consider the risks your shoes present. Of course, you may not be able to give up heels completely, but perhaps you’ll be willing to consider some alternatives after reading this post.

You may not be ready to give up heels altogether, but understanding the problems that can result from wearing them regularly and knowing there are alternatives may convince you to seek healthier ways for your feet to look cute.

Your feet carry a heavy load

When you consider the size of your feet compared to, say, the size of your abdomen, you realize just how small your feet really are. Then, when you think about what your feet do in terms of holding your body weight, providing mobility and balance, not to mention shock absorption, you begin to understand that your foot is nothing short of an engineering marvel. But, your feet don’t do everything alone; they work in concert with the rest of your body.

Your feet contain one-quarter of the bones in your body, despite their relatively small size. They also have more than 100 ligaments, tendons, and muscles that work together to provide you with support, balance, and the ability to move. Any time you stand, walk, run, jump, or make any of the other millions of motions you’re capable of making, all the different components that make up your feet work together like the wonderful, complex biomechanical miracle they are.

One problem creates a cascade

Because of the complexity of your feet, if one small area is compromised, it creates a snowball effect that can impact your entire body. Imagine you have a bruise on the bottom of your foot, just below your two smallest toes. You’re walking a little differently to keep pressure off the bruise.

After just an hour of walking to favor the bruised area, you notice a pain in your knee and that your back is starting to ache, and your other foot is starting to hurt, too. Even a small change in your gait for a short period of time can have a big impact.

Here’s some bad news: High heels are much worse than a bruise on the bottom of your foot. Think about how your feet move when you walk barefooted. Your heel strikes the ground first, as it’s designed to do, then your foot rolls forward, and you push off the ball of your foot. When you wear heels, none of that is possible.

High heels also change the way your body weight is distributed and place far more pressure on your forefoot. You’re risking injury to your feet, ankles, knees, and hips with this improper weight distribution, not to mention further reducing the surface area you have for balance.

Poor toes

Besides messing up your natural gait, redistributing your weight, and changing the load your forefeet carry, heels can cause big problems for your toes. They can either worsen or cause problems. A few issues that are common among women who wear heels include:

  • Bunions
  • Hammertoes
  • Ingrown toenails
  • Stress fractures (that can lead to arthritis)

Precarious balance

You may take great pride in your ability to stroll gracefully in your highest stilettos, but when you do, you’re working with very little surface area. Plus, walking down a hallway is one thing, walking across a gravel parking lot, or on an uneven sidewalk, is another thing entirely.

Your feet provide a solid foundation and smooth mobility, but high heels narrow the point of balance considerably.

Step in the right direction

We harbor the hope that reading this has convinced you to reconsider your collection of footwear, but we’re practical enough to know you probably won’t switch to all sneakers all the time. There are, however, some things you can do to limit the damage your favorite heels can cause.

A good first step is to think about the height of your heels. Lower heels are more stable, and certain styles, like wedges, offer more stability. The greater the surface area of your shoe making contact with the ground, the healthier your feet will be.

You may also want to ask Dr. Dharia about custom orthotics. Many orthotics can be made thin enough to fit into dress shoes, and they may help provide some much-needed support.

Of course, in a perfect world, your shoes would be flat. As a podiatry center, we aren’t exactly experts in high fashion, but we do know that there are many styles of cute flats out in the world that would look great with any outfit. Plus, if you dance all night in flat shoes, your feet won’t hurt the next day.

If you have questions about your footwear, or you’re experiencing pain, book an appointment at Jersey Foot & Ankle Institute. You can use our convenient online scheduling tool, or call us at (908) 874-7592. We’ll be happy to help.


Dr. Dharia is very knowledgeable and very responsive. He is very passionate about helping his patients. Thank you for such a great experience.


Knowledgeable, skillful and courteous practice.

Hong L.

Very excellent and professional treatment and advice on an ongoing toenail problem.

Janet B.

Very professional, prompt and thorough.

Dean C.

Dr. Dharia is very thorough and explains things clearly and in a manner that is easily understood by non medical people.

Bill H.


Kathleen F.

The doctor is very caring and helpful. The nurse is also very pleasant

Howard W.

Great Dr. He takes his time with each person and he speaks to you like your a person

David S.

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