We all know proper footwear is essential for performance but have you ever stopped to consider what your shoe choice during off-training times is doing to you?
If you’re a woman who likes high heels, you may want to give this some thought. According to research, the number of injuries related to high heels has doubled in the years between 2003 and 2012. Anyone who has ever donned a pair can attest to heels adding a new wrinkle to mobility in grass, on ice, broken sidewalks, and when trying to keep up with a fast walker in flats. Everything from sprained ankles to stress fractures in the small bones of the feet are reasonably common place.
Additionally, while heels may, at first, act to strengthen the muscles stabilizing the ankles, after the body adapts to these demands, muscles do not gain addition strength. During prolonged wear, the muscles of the calves and the achilles tendon can shorten while the muscles of the front of the shin lengthen and this imbalance can play a role in decreasing the muscular strength of the lower leg.
Even as I’m writing this, I don’t expect many of you heel wearers will change your mind about strapping on that perfect pair for an evening out! With that in mind, and like everything else we do here, there are ways to limit your risk of injury and keep your feet and legs in great working order. What do the experts recommend?
Stretch: we want to keep those calves and Achilles long and relaxed.
Strengthen: As I said above, while initially the muscles of the lower leg gain strength, unless you started wearing high heels for the first time two weeks ago, you’re probably out of the phase where just walking around in those heels is going to do much strengthening. Calf raises, one legged stands, and ankle exercises done with a resistance band is a great place to start to keep your lower legs strong.
Limit your time in heels: This is where your common sense comes in. Don’t wear heels when you know you’re going to be standing and walking over a great deal of uneven or unstable ground. And reconsider your choice if you know you’re going to be under a great deal of pressure to get from point A to point B as quick as possible. If you do find yourself in those situations, make sure to pay more attention to where and how you’re walking. Walking gait in heels becomes markedly less fluid than flat shoe walking, add instability or fatigue to the mix and you may find yourself sidelined from training for something as dumb as vanity.
No athlete I know wants to have to admit they can’t play because they fell off their shoes — Don’t be that athlete. Like so many other aspects of your training, what you wear on your feet during your time away from training matters.