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How High Heels Affect Your Spine

Showing a woman's spineFor many women, high-heeled shoes are a wardrobe staple. But did you know that wearing high heels for even just a few hours can wreck serious havoc on your spine? In this blog post from Chiropractic FIRST in Lincoln, we discuss the various effects that high heels can have on your back and spine, and ways to minimize the damage. If you’re searching for holistic wellness services in the Lincoln area, look no further than Chiropractic FIRST. With our Initial Visit Special, you can enjoy your first spinal adjustment for only $97. Book an appointment today to get started.

High Heels and You

Are you one of the 72% of women in America who wear high-heeled shoes, whether regularly or for special occasions? We get it! High heels help the wearer appear taller, slimmer, and accentuate the muscular tone of the legs. They’ve played an important part in fashion around the world since at least the tenth century, and continue to be a go-to shoe for many women today. In highlighting the negative effects that high heels can have on your body, we’re not attempting to shame you for wearing high-heeled shoes, but simply make you reconsider whether this choice is worth the risks and, if you choose to continue to wear high heels, how you can minimize the damage.

Injury and Pain

Wearing high heels is associated with musculoskeletal pain and injury, specifically pain in the muscles running up and down the spine. A 2001 survey by Pennsylvania State University found that 58% of women complained of lower back pain when wearing high heels. This is because high heels force the wearer’s body to take an unnatural position in order to maintain its center of gravity, thereby placing more pressure and tension on the lumbar spine (lower back). Regularly wearing high heels on a long-term basis can even permanently increase your risk of back injury and muscular fatigue.

Postural Effects

Many clients come to us wishing to get a better posture. If you’re a high heel wearer, one of the best things you can do is to ditch your shoes! Wearing high heels places an increased amount of pressure on your forefoot, causing you to adjust the rest of your body to maintain your balance. As a result, your lower back is forced to push itself forward, and, to compensate, the rest of your body must lean back to keep you balanced. This can cause serious damage to your posture, not to mention that wearing high heels also increases the likelihood of developing postural disorders. This is especially true for teenagers and adolescents, whose vertebrae and intervertebral discs are still undergoing developmental changes.

Spinal Health

When you wear high heels, you shift your body’s center of mass, forcing your spine to adjust itself in order to maintain balance. Consequently, your chest and lower back are forced to push themselves forward, forcing your hips and spines out of alignment. In short, the body’s response to leaning forward is to decrease the forward curve of your lumbar spine to help keep you aligned. This causes uneven wear and tear on your vertebral discs, joints, and back ligaments, resulting in muscle overuse, muscle fatigue, muscle swelling, decreased movement, tissue deformation, and back pain. Research has shown that this can happen even when you wear high heels for just a short period of time.

Wearing heels can also result in a painful spinal nerve condition known as foraminal stenosis. Symptoms of foraminal stenosis include shooting pain, numbness, tingling, muscle weakness, spasms, cramping, and pain that radiates from the buttocks down the legs. This type of pain is sometimes also referred to as “sciatica.”


While the best thing you can do to look after your spinal health in terms of wearing high heels is to forego them altogether, we understand that this would be difficult for many women. Here are several alternatives to help ameliorate the damage:

  • Reduce the height of your heel. The higher the heel, the more likely you are to experience pain and injury. We recommend limiting heel height to 5cm or less.
  • Avoid pointed toes. High heels with pointed toes, such as stilettos, carry an even bigger risk of spinal damage, not to mention bunions and potentially permanent foot deformities. Opt for a classic curved toe instead.
  • Limit the amount of time you wear heels. If you wear heels to work every day, consider limiting yourself to one or two days a week. You might even want to save your heels for special occasions only.
  • Stretch leg muscles before and after wearing heels. If you must wear heels, then at least give your body some love before and afterwards by getting in a good calf stretch.

Take Care of Your Spinal Health at Chiropractic FIRST

They say that pain is beauty, but does this always have to be the case? At Chiropractic FIRST, we urge our clients to put their health as their priority, even if it means having to give up their favorite pair of pumps. Be sure to check back on this blog for even more advice about spinal health, and visit our chiropractic clinic in Lincoln to experience the power of spinal adjustments today.

How High Heels Affect Your Spine | (402) 421-7000