Women are hurting themselves wearing high heels more than ever

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The Cannes Film Festival isn’t exactly a stranger to controversy, but most of the time, it’s the films that spark a cause célèbre. Earlier this week, however, as anyone with a wireless connection likely knows, something else entirely provoked a media firestorm: shoes. On Tuesday, a group of women in their 50s were reportedly turned away from a film screening because they were not wearing high heels.


While celebrities like Emily Blunt have since spoken out about the enforcement of the dress-code double standard against women, perhaps we should encourage emergency room physicians to take a stand: A study published just this month shows (again) just how bad high heels are for your feet—and apparently, how frickin' dangerous they are. High heel-related injuries have doubled between 2002 and 2012, according to research published in the aptly named Journal of Foot and Ankle Injuries.

For the study, researchers from the University of Alabama collected data from the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission’s National Electronic Injury Surveillance System, a database that records emergency hospital visits directly related to consumer products. After tallying the data, good lord, they found 123,355 high heel-related injuries during a ten-year span. There were 19,000 injuries in 2011 alone.

"Although high-heeled shoes might be stylish, from a health standpoint, it would be worthwhile for those interested in wearing high-heeled shoes to understand the risks and the potential harm that precarious activities in high-heeled shoes can cause," Gerald McGwin, professor of the Department of Epidemiology and lead investigator said in a statement.

The researchers found that people in their twenties were most likely to have endured a high heel-related injury, followed by people in their thirties. More than 80 percent of the injuries involved damage to the ankle or foot, and about 20 percent of cases involved the knee, trunk, shoulder, head, or neck. White women suffered the highest number of injuries, though the rate of injury for black women was double the rate for white women.

For the record, scientific studies that stress the various dangers of high-heeled shoes are bountiful.  (Warning: You may want to hug those Louboutins—fine, those Steve Maddens with the soles you hand-painted red—real tight one last time before you learn just much how they’re ravaging your orthopedic health.) Not only do high heel shoes cram up your toes, but they affect your ankles, your knees, and your back—and can even hurt your spine!

A 2012 study published in the Journal of Applied Physiology found that long-term use of high-heeled shoes straight up alters the neuromechanics of walking, meaning our legs actually change to accommodate high-heeled shoes—fibrous clusters of muscle in your calves shorten and your Achilles tendon stiffens. I mean, ever tried to make a Barbie walk with those ever-pointed toes? Okay, the bigger issue was definitely her body bending backwards with every step, but her legs were very stiff.


As much as I love my high heels, perhaps it truly is time to retire them. I mean, at this point they’re less articles of clothing and more instruments for hammering those wooden pegs into Ikea furniture, so it’s not that much of a loss.