Why high-heels are habit-forming

18 July 2010
Posted by Chris Smith.

High-heel tottering fashion slaves often complain that stepping down to normal footwear is extremely uncomfortable following the elevating effects of a six-inch height boost. Now scientists know why.

A pair of high heeled shoe with 12cm stiletto heelsIn a paper in the Journal of Experimental Biology, Manchester Metropolitan University scientist Marco Narici explains how he used newspaper ads to recruit over 80 women with at least a 2 year, 5 cm high-heel history, 11 of whom reported discomfort when walking without their heels.

Ultrasound measurements of the calf muscle lengths amongst these women showed significant shortening - by 13% - of the muscle fibres compared with non-heel wearing controls.

At the same time, MRI scans showed that the Achilles tendons of the two groups were the same lengths, indicating that the tendons of the heel wearers had not lengthened to compensate for the shorter muscle length, although the heel wearers tendons were nonetheless thicker and stiffer than those of the controls.

Consequently, walking on flat-feet becomes uncomfortable for these people because the tendon cannot stretch sufficiently to compensate for the altered posture.

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