My Love-Hate relationship with High Heels
Let's face it. High heels are gorgeous, sexy and fun. Wearing them transports me into that playfulness and self confidence. I imagine it does that for others as well.
There's a reason why so many "more comfortable" styles are developed and why they never really get
My love for them has gone through 4 phases so far.
First was our getting to know each other phase, filled with scrapes and bumps along with many, many 15 minute breaks. Next came my swaying phase; stilettos for 5 hours at a party? no problem! Then came my office heels phase where heels were a natural part of dressing for the part. And then came motherhood with a few pairs of 15 minute used heels on an impulse buy, just in case I had energy to wear them anywhere after flip flops in the kiddie park.
In looking at available shoe selections, I am pleased to see that the most important trend is centered around comfort. I now own comfortable high heel shoes. I'm grateful there is such a thing as shoe engineering that actually blends designs with comfort so that they also look good! Still though, wearing shoes that promote a high lift in the heel, unnaturally flexes certain muscles while forcing others to relax. This imbalance in the way muscles relate, causes postural imbalances that lead to movement inefficiencies, compensations and injury. Ever go to reach of a cup of water or put your bag down and just randomly pull out your back? Chances are this is the result of the cumulative effects of postural inefficiencies.
Before learning about posture and working in fitness, I had no idea exactly how damaging my favorite shoes are and also how much they had hurt ME. My toes were all scrunched with bumps from calluses. My lower back arched outwards, kicking my belly forward and placing strain on my lower back, hips, hamstrings and calves. I would get cramps and often trip and experience multiple temporary sprains. If I tried to tiptoe out of a sleeping baby's room, my knees would click so loudly I'd freeze in sheer terror that the baby would awaken.
High heels throw our center of balance off. Just because I walked in them gracefully and felt like a different person mentally, it doesn't mean my body did it happily. The synergy in my muscles was completely thrown off causing some muscles to become overactive and others to become super lazy. This affected my posture and eventually how I felt.
I do love them though and need to find a way to reconcile all of this. If you have not done so recently, measure your feet. Both of them actually. They can differ in size significantly. Be certain to always try both shoes when shopping. If you've had any pregnancy or weight gain, chances are your feet have expanded a bit, bringing them up even a full size. Be certain the fit is proper by checking to see if you can wiggle your toes and no part of your foot feels pinched. Is your arch in need of support? Do your ankles cave in? Check the incline and go for more stability whenever possible ie. platforms or wedges where the height is there but is also more supported. This places much less stress on your ankles. Feeling more stable alone allows you to maintain better posture using your core.If you tend to be lazy in your core, focus your attention there and activate it as often as possible.
Take a few minutes to stretch as soon as you take them off. Ideally if you have a foam roller, or medicine ball place it under your calves, roll slowly to find the place with the most tension, and then hold there for 30 seconds. Release the pressure and do it again. Follow with stretching for a about 2-5 minutes, longer if you incorporate all suggestions below.
For a simple 2 minute stretch, you can simply use a wall or a book if you want less of an incline. Placing your heel on the floor and toes elevated against the wall, use the other leg to lean into the foot being stretched. Find a "comfortably uncomfortable" place of tension that you can hold for at least 30 seconds. Repeat 2-3 times per side.
If you are wanting to take this release further, bend into a simple toes stretch (knees do not have to lock) and hold at your farthest reach for about 30 seconds before reaching up to the sky and repeating again 2-3 times. This will extend the stretch along your hamstrings. If like me you are more visual, I created a little video about this here.
Finally, if you are so inclined for an extra little challenge, I would highly recommend a seated twist for your erector spinae. This is the one where your sit on the floor, legs stretched out in front of you and you bend one leg and cross it over the stretched leg's knee. The you turn towards that leg, spine straight and hold for at least 30 seconds in a fairly challenging extension or twist. To stretch further, look back toward the arm supporting you. Hold for 30 seconds and do a couple per side.
In short this little routine will relax and lengthen overactive muscles and help prevent imbalances. I highly recommend this as soon as the heels come off and before any workout. If you're healthy and have no fitness related restrictions from your doctor, you can practice these daily. In fact, these will promote better health. This little routine does not take much time, improves posture and promotes your best functional performance in your everyday life whether it's working around the house, the garden or training for a sport. It also promotes a health mindset that will trickle into the rest of your day!
To your health!
TheresaWV is a Health Coach and Mom focusing on empowering techniques towards sustainable lifestyle changes, corrective exercises, and self leadership. For your free assessment for an individualized approach to health and fitness, contact her directly at CoachTheresaWV@gmail.com