Being able to walk in heels gracefully gives you an air of confidence and quiet authority that is irresistible.
A medium pair of high heels (i.e. less than 3 inches high) will strengthen and tone the muscles in your calves, thighs and hips, and correct your posture as it tilts the top of the hips forward, curving the back and lifting the chest and stomach.
This “sway back” silhouette also has a slimming effect if you carry weight in the tummy, as that area is stretched open. The higher the heel, the more arched your back will be.
Conversely, when standing in flat shoes, most women tend to slouch their shoulders forward. This drops the chest and forces the top of the hips to tilt backwards, resulting in a silhouette of a flat back, or if you’re really slouching, a round curve in the back and compression in the tummy (i.e. tummy rolls.)
Yes, you could simply wear flat shoes and remember to stand up straight and walk tall. However, with sedentary lives comes weak abdominals and back muscles, so unless you’re a professional ballet dancer… that shoulders-back stance is probably not gonna last long. Much easier to wear a pair of reasonable heels.
A medium heel can achieve a similar curve to the upper ankle or vamp area of the foot as with a stiletto, just by standing on one leg and stretching the other foot to one side. That bowed ballet-like curve is the talus bone supported by a group of muscles called the extensors. If you’re tempted to buy a pair of unreasonable heels (higher than 3″) remember that ballet dancers spend several hours a day, strengthening their ankles, calves, etc to enable them to dance —very briefly— on point.
Keep Your Feet Happy and Healthy
If you want to avoid expensive and painful foot problems, podiatrists and biomedical engineers advise* that you don’t walk (or worse, stand still) in high heels for longer than a couple of hours without taking a break.
Also, try to wear them no more than 3 days a week, alternating every other day with flats or lower heels. This will keep your Achilles tendon (back of your ankle) from shortening to the point where you can no longer wear flat shoes, and will lessen the likelihood of falls due to cumulative muscle fatigue.
If you do yoga, try a couple of Downward Dog stretches after wearing heels. Or stand on a stair and gently raise and lower your heels over the edge several times for a maximum stretch to the Achilles tendon.
In essence, if you want to keep your feet happy and healthy, think of your high heels like fine chocolate: an occasional treat, not a daily staple.
* See the final summary of this scientific study on the dangerous cumulative effect of wearing high heels.
Coming Soon : High Heels: Part 8: Shoe Shapes That Flatter
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