High Heels: Part 2 of 8: How To Avoid Twisting an Ankle

Your ankle is most vulnerable to twisting in strappy open-heeled stilettos: it’s the equivalent of choosing to walk across a deep chasm on a rope bridge, versus one made of steel. Why?

Black strappy Pradas

No heel cup or sides = a recipe for a sprained ankle.


If your foot’s heel is not firmly anchored to the shoe’s heel, it can move independently of the rest of the sole and twist, also known as torquing. This is bad enough in shoes with no sides and just a heel cup where the foot can move up and down (especially as your toes are pushed further forward into the toebox); it’s worse when there’s no heel cup and just a thin strap around the ankle. Then your heel can move up and down and side to side, and that is when you are most likely to fall sideways out of your shoe, my darling. (Don’t fret. I will show you how you can still have strappy, fabulous looking heels that are safe in a later post.)

Alexander Tomlinson at Chanel.

Alexander Tomlinson at Chanel.

Models falling

“Oh, that’ll never happen to me.” Oh really? Are you aware that many a professional model, whose job it is to walk in heels all the time and who likely wears heels more often than you do, has recently fallen while wearing heels on catwalks. There are entire blogs dedicated to pictures of models falling, it’s that common. This was not a problem until the last couple of years, and for the most part, the changes in modern shoe design are to blame. The slick catwalks don’t help either. And wearing socks (!) or stockings with strappy open heels is just asking for an accident. If you don’t want to suffer the same problems, you need to grasp the importance of sole adhesion, and heel position (covered in detail in the next post).

Halle Berry with sprained ankle.

Halle Berry with sprained ankle.

If your body is in motion when your foot torques in a strappy heel, you will likely fall sideways, and your full body weight will land right on the bent ankle just before your hips and elbows hit the pavement. If you’re lucky, you can catch yourself mid-fall and avoid serious injury.

If not, you will likely sprain your ankle, which means that you’re in for a lovely 6 – 12 week recuperation period complete with crutches and a devastatingly unsexy boot. (If Halle Berry can’t make it look cool, what chance do you have?) Good luck finding boots that will fit that godzilla foot if it happens to be Winter. If it’s summer, forget swimming or a sandy beach. Oh, and there’s the physical therapy visits 3 times a week plus daily exercises. Yay…

Why does this happen so often in heels?

It’s not just the added height. When you’re standing on flat feet, the work of supporting the body is shared by both your bones and your muscles. But when you’re standing on your toes, the muscles, particularly those in the lower leg, are doing most of the work.

Monica J skids at Hervé Leger

Monica J skids at Hervé Leger

There’s also a lot more space between the bones in the ankle area when you’re on your toes, with naught but flexible tendons and muscles to hold you up. This is what makes it possible for you to hop and run, and puts the spring in your step. If those muscles haven’t been used in awhile (I’m talking to you, weekend fashionista) or you’re wearing a higher heel than normal, your leg muscles may be too weak.

How To Avoid an Injury in High Heels

1) Be proactive: do strength exercises that tone the lower leg muscles and keep your legs long and strong. In yoga, any of the tree poses (balancing on one leg) or lunges (warrior) are great for this. Before and after a day in heels, be sure to do a couple of Down(ward) Dogs to stretch the achilles tendon. Or stand barefoot on a step with your heels hanging off the edge and a hand on a railing and gently raise and lower yourself. Or jump (gently!) on a mini-trampoline for 5 mins each morning.

2) Pay more attention to the way you walk:

  • slow down
  • shorten your stride (close your eyes and take a few steps to get a better feel)
  • avoid slick, hard surfaces or cobble-stones
  • link arms with a friend when walking in a street or across uneven terrain so you can easily catch yourself
  • take a break and sit down before you need to so that your muscles aren’t exhausted and weak

Avoiding a Skid

These heels are guaranteed to skid on a smooth floor.

These heels are guaranteed to skid on a smooth floor.

Have you ever skidded in a high heel at the point when your heel makes contact? Why does this happen?

1) your stride is too long for the heel height (take smaller steps, sweetpea)
2) the heel tip material is too hard and slick (have a cobbler replace that plastic crap with a leather or rubber sole that will grip better on polished surfaces)
3) the heel is too narrow for your weight

Narrow heels are pretty much guaranteed to cause a skid on anything but carpet. And the heel is poorly positioned, which I’ll explain in the next post.

High Heels: Part 3 of 8: Analyzing a Heel from a Distance >>

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