New study finds that wearing high heels can be good for your ankle muscles
The study looked at young women who were studying to become airline attendants at the Hanseo University in South Korea. Researchers instructed the group to wear heels to class – a wardrobe requirement should an airline hire them.
Over four years, researchers studied 10 women from each class, ranging from freshmen to seniors. In a lab, they examined each woman’s balance and tested their ankle strength using a wobbly board and computerised exercising machines.
Much to their surprise, they found that the women’s’ legs seemed to get stronger the more they got used to wearing heels – at least at first.
But over time, high heels can have the opposite effect, researchers discovered
Compared to freshmen, juniors exhibited a greater strength in the muscles surrounding their ankles; especially those on the inside and outside of the joint. However, seniors – who’d been wearing heels the longest – showed weakening in those same muscles.
In addition, seniors also showed dramatically worse balance, even compared to the freshmen.
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Jee Yong-Seok, a co-author of the study and professor of exercise physiology at Hanseo University, told the New York Times: “While wearing high heeled shoes may at first lead to adaption and increased strength, the ratio of strength between the side and front and back muscles may eventually become unbalanced and unstable.
Translation: Your sexy stilettos still aren’t great for your body in the long run – even if you feel like you’ve gotten used to them.
Protect your feet by wearing high heels in moderation
Unwilling to completely forsake your favourite pair of heels? You can protect your feet by practising moderation. Researchers say their best advice is for women to stick with a heel no higher than 7 cm and vary their heel height as much as possible. For example: High heels one day, comfy flats the next.
Also, remember that it’s always important to give your feet a break from time to time. If they hurt, carry sensible shoes with you so you can change if you need.
Yong-Seok also told the Times that women who wear high heels often should practise heel lifts and drops whenever possible to prevent injury to ankles and other leg muscles: Stand barefoot, then rise onto your toes repeatedly; then stand on the edge of a stair and slowly lower your heel over the edge. Doing both exercises regularly can help strengthen your ankle muscles.