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High Heels May Age Joints and Lead to Arthritis

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High heel shoes 

If high heels make you swoon, a recent study out of Iowa State University may bring you heartbreak. It turns out those gorgeous, leg-elongating stilettos could be setting you up for something more than a great look. The study shows that these styles can age your joints and increase your odds of developing osteoarthritis.

"Wearing high heels puts individuals at greater risk for developing osteoarthritis. And it seems to be that the higher the heel height, the greater the risk," said Danielle Barkema, the ISU student who recently completed her thesis research studying the effects of high-heeled walking on forces acting on lower extremity joints.

Barkema chose three heel heights – flat, two inches, and 3.5 inches. She had 15 women in her study complete walking trials. She found that the height of the heel changed how the women walked including speed and stride length. Most notably was the find that the higher the heel, the more force that was put on the inside of the knee.

The ISU study also confirmed what women have known for years, wearing high heels (2 inches or higher) alters our posture. But that's not a good thing, ladies. Barkema's study found that changing joint positions at the ankle, knee, hip, and trunk can create strain on the lower back.

The study is admittedly small with only 15 participants, but the results may echo an age-old cautionary tale: What we do today may have harmful effects on our health in the future.

You don't need to toss all of your high-heels by the wayside. Even the researcher admits, that simply wearing high heels in moderation and choosing styles with a lower heel may help prevent future joint damage and osteoarthritis.

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