By Tsitaliya Mircheva
Don’t get me started on the subject of high heels, I can talk for hours. For me they symbolize everything that jogging bottoms and white knit socks are not. That’s where their beauty lie. If I also add that heels are powerful I’ll sound like a cliché. Let me tell you something you don’t know.
72% of women wear high heels at some point, and only 28% never wear high heels. 30 years ago women used to wear high heels a lot more than today, and with age women wear high heels much less than when they were young. Do you find any correlation betwen freedom and high heels? I can spot something but I can’t call it a trend. Anyway back to when I was a bit younger and a little more adventurous. I would wear high heels all day every day. Now I slip into my high heels just like Cinderella the moment I walk into an event and then remove them to wear, sometimes even more glamorous, trainers! I know, aren’t these two oxymorons? Well no – just look at all the glitter and bling bling many designers have added to trainers at their couture shows. Are high heels to be a thing of the past??
Yet, there is something so appealing about high heels, so sexy and feminine. I like my high heels tall and dangerous, I like them sassy and insolent, I like them leather and embellished, in every colour possible lined up on loooong bookshelves in my walk in closet. That is what I call heaven. There is one problem though; high heels can be bad for our health – Can our killer heels literally kill us? After some discussion going on at our Mums in Heels premises (with my girls wearing horse boots or tiny delicate ballerinas) I seem the only one guilty of being a heel addict. Let’s ask what the experts say:
Tsitaliya: Does wearing high heels really harm your body?
Nadine Bacher: The harm depends on the height of the heel, the muscle balance, how often and how long we wear high heels. By raising the heel, the calf muscles shorten and increase the tension. The pressure on both knees increases as well and the body disaligns all the way to the head. High heels affect the entire fascial tissue from the toes, along the soles of your feet, the back of your legs up to your head.
Note from the editor : Fascia are an important contributor to our mobility and posture in our body- they create a synergy of muscles increasing our strength and are essential for the metabolism of our tissue. Every cell in the body is connected through fascia in an unending web or matrix. It is more than a wrap around muscle. The fascial system is a complex webbing in and through muscle creating one interconnected network (ideafit.com)
Tsitaliya: Should we completely give up high heels?
Nadine Bacher: Ladies, no! Who would want a lovely evening dress with ballerinas? My advice is to buy quality high heels that feel comfortable and stable. Adhere to my suggestions for exercises and relief. Restrict wearing high heels to occasions in which you need those extra inches for style, self-esteem and most elegant stride walk.
Tsitaliya: How high is safe?
Nadine Bacher : This is a very difficult question. It depends on the ratio between heel and plateau, on your ability to balance the extra height with your pelvic muscles, the stability of your ankle and your bones, particularly in your forefoot. A woman with a hallux, a big toe pointing to the other toes, should not wear higher than 5 cm heels. The only exception is if she just walks a few steps and then sits down for the opera or a dinner. If the lower back is generally already tense due to body position, high heels can contribute to back pain.
Tsitaliya: Is there a way to prevent the pain from wearing high heels in the future?
Nadine Bacher: The most important factors are: how do you train yourself to walk and stand in high heels? What do you do when you take off your high heels? I advocate exercises, detox measures and relief products. Most of them you can find on my homepage in the download center. I highly recommend standing and walking over one spot on an accupuncture mat before and after wearing heels. Stretching your calves on a step, wearing trainers before going to bed is the absolute minimum. I recently participated in a day-course on how to walk in high heels and I enjoyed it very much.
Tsitaliya : Is there a special sole we can use for example to support a healthy foot?
Nadine Bacher: The typical gel insoles can be good for some, but not for all. Cheap high heels contain a lot of glue, which ads to the damage in the foot sole. High quality high heels often contain a cushioning on the inside of the shoe which is better than adding a gel sole. But lets face it: a high heel is always a high heel.
Tsitaliya: Let’s instead talk about the advantages of wearing high heels. Can you tell us a little bit about how footwear affects the way our body moves and what impression we create to the outside world?
Nadine Bacher : Picture the following scenarios:
You walk into a room. Hundreds of people have come to hear your opener to the conference. You wear a business suit, nice make-up and flat shoes. You feel comfortable and safe. How long do you think you need to capture the audience and establish your authority ?
Now imagine yourself walking into the same room wearing the same outfit with high heels. Every step is conscious. You position yourself on the stage. You begin your talk. My experience is that with high heels our authority is accepted faster. Why? One of the reasons is simple – height. Another practical point is that we figet less in high heels because we seek stability. We are more likely to position one foot firmly on the ground and the other one slightly to the side. This is to demonstrate that we take a more feminine pose, less confrontational.
In one of my workshops, I received some feedback from other participants about my posture, saying that it was rather aggressive when I was wearing flat shoes. Now I always wear high heels on stage. Even if they are just 5 centimeters… I am a feminist who use femininity consciously. In the end, you decide what works best for you and for the specific occasion. When I talk to a hundred soccer referees, however, I would wear flat shoes.
Nadine Bacher intially worked in pharmaceutical marketing for seven years before becoming a physiotherapist. In 2013, she founded BacherFit to combine physiotherapy, nutrition, supplements and seminars for individuals, companies and athletes. She loves her two days in the physio practice with slacks and running shoes as much as her talks in front of hundreds of people with 50s style dresses and peep toes. In her free time, you will primarily see her in either cycling shoes or snowboard boots.