While they may make your legs look sleek and toned, high heels could also be causing long-term damage to your joints. Because of the pressure high heels put on our joints, those who wear them regularly are at greater risk for developing arthritis. Learn more about what wearing high heels does to our bodies and what you can do to minimize the damage.

What is Osteoarthritis?

The type of arthritis that wearing high heels can cause is called osteoarthritis, which is the most common form of the condition, affecting nearly 27 million Americans age 25 or older.

To explain how osteoarthritis affects the body, we must first know what a healthy joint is supposed to look like. In a healthy joint, the ends of our bones are padded with cartilage. The cartilage is protected by a fluid-filled joint capsule and synovial fluid. In a joint with osteoarthritis, the cartilage is worn away. Spurs can form around the edges of bones and more synovial fluid sits around the joint. When these things happen, joints become stiff and movement becomes challenging and uncomfortable.

How Do High Heels Cause Arthritis?

There are 26 bones in your foot. When you wear high heels, each of them is in improper position, but it’s not just your feet that are taking a hit — it’s your entire your body. The alignment of your knees, back and hips are also being thrown off.

When you walk in high heels, your weight is being pushed forward. While your knees and hips extend forward, your back compensates by hyperextending backwards. When your body is so unaligned, your joints take on more pressure to keep you balanced. Overtime, the cartilage in your joints, especially in your knees, can begin to wear.

Am I At Risk For Developing Arthritis?

Unless you wear them everyday, or more often than not, high heels alone will probably not cause you to develop arthritis. However, those who regularly wear heels that are three inches or taller are at a greater risk.

When it comes to footwear, your best bet for avoiding arthritis is wearing a shoe that is comfortable. Opt for a heel that is 2-inches or lower, or arch supporting flats at work. If you absolutely cannot give up your heels, consider using shoe inserts that minimize shock on your joints and focus your weight toward your heel.