FRIDAY, July 16 (HealthDay News) -- High heels may turn heads, but new research shows the long-term cost of wearing them is even steeper than the sky-high price tag of some coveted brands.
Along with aching feet and a variety of foot deformities, years of high-heel wearing can actually alter the anatomy of the calf muscles and tendons, according to a study by researchers in England, published online July 16 in the Journal of Experimental Biology.
The incline of high heels causes the calf muscles to contract. Over time, this causes the muscle fibers to shorten and the Achilles tendon to thicken, so much so that some women feel pain when they try to walk in flats or sneakers.
"You put on heels, you are going to deform your body. End of story," said New York City podiatrist Dr. Johanna Youner, a spokeswoman for the American Podiatric Medical Association who was not involved with the research. "High heels look beautiful, but the body isn't meant to wear them. There is no way around it."
For the study, Marco Narici of Manchester Metropolitan University and colleagues recruited 80 women aged 20 to 50 who had been wearing heels of at least 2 inches almost daily for two years or more. Of those, 11 said they experienced discomfort when walking in flatter shoes.
When compared with women who did not wear heels, ultrasounds revealed the women who wore heels had calf muscle fibers that were 13 percent shorter, while MRIs showed the Achilles tendon, which attaches the heel bone to the calf muscle, was stiffer and thicker.
"This is a great study that looks at the mechanism of how high heels may cause grief and aggravation to the woman wearing them," said Marian Hannan, a senior scientist at the Institute for Aging Research at Hebrew SeniorLife in Boston, who was not involved in the research. "This may have an impact on how future shoes are designed and help th
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