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Heel to Heal

Published on Sunday, January 17, 2016 by Leah Huang

Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this blog do not necessarily reflect those of Sather Health. See our Terms and Conditions of Use for details.

Females love wearing high heels - at least, I definitely do. Those extra inches not only provide us with a height advantage, but they also give us extra confidence, perhaps even making us feel more feminine and attractive. The extra height also seems to garner us more attention. But is enduring the pain worth the extra psychological boost?

For some people, the obvious answer is, "No, absolutely not." Xiaofan Liang, a freshman at UC Berkeley studying Sociology, believes that enduring the discomfort of heels is not worth it: "I prefer sneakers because they are softer and more comfortable, and I don't need to worry about spraining my ankle." Her opinion is contrasted with April Li, another freshman at Cal studying Statistics, who says, "I think wearing high heels tend to prevent you from slouching. That makes you feel more confident and self-assured."

Through an evolutionary standpoint, these high heels have their pros and cons. Technically speaking, high heels prevent women from catching prey and running away from predators. Translating this into our modern society, high heels don't make much of a difference since cars and public transportation have made traveling much more efficient and less time consuming while hunting for food doesn't exactly concern our daily lives. Instead, the extra inches lend an evolutionary benefit in that women appear more attractive and can therefore be more selective in finding a mate, and this still seems to hold true for our society today.

According to a study done on eleven women who regularly wore high heels and nine women who acted as controls, it was found that the gastrocnemius medialis muscle was shortened in the women who regularly wore heels. This is the muscle that runs from just above the back of our knee to our heel. In addition, there was an increase in the Achilles' tendon stiffness, which led to a decrease in the range of motion for the ankle. This might explain why women who regularly wear heels find it difficult and painful to go back to wearing flat shoes.

Not only are heels painful, but they have been shown to cause chronic foot problems. What's the solution? I, along with other women, aren't exactly willing to sacrifice those extra inches. Well, luckily, there is a way to alleviate the pain if forgoing the heels isn't one of your options. Stretching the calves and rotating the ankles provide relief for the tightening Achilles' Tendon and calf muscle. Obviously, the best solution is to avoid heels at all costs, but if you do wear them, don't forget to stretch to help your muscles heal.

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