Do High Heels Really Cause Osteoarthritis and Other Conditions

New study looks at the association of osteoarthritis and high heel shoes. Is the fashion trend for women causing conditions or is it just hype.

High heels have been around as far as any records can indicate since the 1500's. Throughout time have progressed in great leaps and bounds of heel inches and styles. Women all love heels they look great with that perfect black dress each woman seems to own or even a pair of jeans. Stilettos, Kitten heels, chunky high heels. Heels designed to bring about that sex appeal. Its the current trend and very fashionable. So what if we ache a little once we take them off. Maybe now is the time that we should really care about what those heels are actually doing to our bodies.

Recently at Iowa State University, a masters student in kinesiology had conducted a study who discovered that high heels in lengthy wearing and walking does add to joint degeneration and osteoarthritis in the knee.

Danielle Barkema the master student who had just finished her thesis research on the observation of outcomes on walking in high heels impact reaction on lower extremity joints. Department chair and professor of kinesiology Phil Martin, had helped her with the study.

This study will be introduced in part during the annual meeting of the American Society of Biomechanics, which is held August 18 through the 21st at Brown University located in Providence Rhode Island.

Ms. Barkema states of her study that it is evident concerning this type of research that it can not positively be stated that by wearing high heels on a regular basis that the development of osteoarthritis will occur. That has not been determined as of yet. More than likely there are women who wear high heels that may have the arthritis and those who do not. Although established on this data, persons who wear high heals do have a greater chance of getting osteoarthritis. It also appears that higher the heels are the more of a risk is present.

Three heights of heels were tested. They were flat, two inch and 3.5 inch. The fifteen women who took part in her study had completed walking trails. Measurements of impact action around the knee joint and the heel strike influenced shock wave which goes up the body when walking in heels. By the use of sensors, accelerometers (an instrument in which detects and measures vibrations) and lab equipment such as markers and cameras, she had the ability to record the motion and force information and then interpret it into findings that possibly would alter the choices of footwear millions of women buy.

Past studies did observe the reactions of high heels on the joints. Iowa State University researchers did discover that heel heights do alter walking mannerisms such as taking shorter strides in steps. When the heels became higher observed also was additional compression on the inside of the knee.

Ms. Brakeman states that indications are wearing and walking in heels for a enduring length of time could eventually add to degeneration of the joints and osteoarthritis in the knee.

Professor Martin adds he believes her assumptions are correct. That wearing high heels on a regular basis places that person at risk and the higher the heal the risk increases more. The production of loading in the joints becomes a higher risk with each and every step. This was not a direct measure of loading in the joint, but is an alternate way of observing that type of loading.

Ms. Brakeman's observations also included posture changes, in two inches or higher heels which also includes altered joint positions at the ankle, knee, hip and trunk that can react in strain placed on the lower back. The most pronounced alterations happens in the ankles.

Ms. Brakeman's thesis topic in reality derived from Ashley, her twin sister, who had noticed the physical demand it was putting on her co-workers who wear high heels.

A few years back Ashley started work as a retail manager at a well known Chicago department store. Ashley and many of her co-workers wore high heels daily. She had observed a lot of the women and saw that in the older women who also wore heels daily had assorted problems such as in knees and hips.

Ms. Brakeman's sister was one of the participants for her study and she states she is not telling Ashley or her friends to stop wearing high heel shoes. To just wear them in reasonable amounts not daily and if they can wear a lower heel.

The research when introduced at the ASB meeting will highlight one of two parts of the study, either the outcomes of the tibia acceleration or impact associated to heel heights. The findings had established that the maximum impact is at two inch heels and higher heels in all actuality do lessen the impact as flat shoes do.

Back in November 2019, another study of research was presented to the American College of Rheumatology Annual Scientific Meeting which had occurred in Boston Massachusetts. It dealt with the type of footwear worn and the outcomes of osteoarthritis in the knees. That research had indicated that walking shoes and flip flops lower knee loads as if person was walking with no shoes on. The studies final conclusions were that wearing flat and flexible shoes provided the best on knee loads.

Osteoarthritis of the knee usually happens when the knees endure trauma, infection or injury. In the middle of the bones articular cartilage is present to act as a cushion guard between bones. The arthritis begins when cartilage starts deterioration or is lost. When this happens the joint space located between the bones becomes more narrow. This is early evidence that osteoarthritis is starting to begin. It is able to be spotted on x-rays.

There are many factors which can contribute to osteoarthritis besides the possible wearing of heels, so do not throw out those new stilettos just yet.

Genetic mutations possibly can cause osteoarthritis in the knee.

Increase weight adds more stress to your joints.

Age increases and the cartilage being able to repair itself declines.

Women aged 50 years and older can possibly have a better chance of developing it.

Injury traumas like those from sports can cause it to develop.

Reoccurring stress injuries like if you have to constantly squat or 55 pounds of lifting daily. As unbelievable as it sounds even computer key board operators among other professions have a heightened risk.

Various illness that reappear like gout or some congenital conditions can increase risk factor.

If you do have osteoarthritis arthritis of the knee instead of loading your system with medications, corticosteroid injections or surgery, there are some alternative therapies which just maybe able to help you. Here are a couple that are regularly used by persons.


Supplements such as Glucosmaine and SAMe have been used. Especially avocados and soybeans used daily at 300 mg does provide long term relief as indicated by two clinical trails.


There is no set diet for persons with arthritis however, persons arthritis can flare up by consumption of certain foods, saturated fats and vegetable oil produce inflammation.

The best answer is too seek advice from a nutritionist, dietician or Ayurveda practitioner.


Acupuncture does provide relief and aides in helping functioning of joints. This was established through one of the largest studies done. The study was press released in December of 2004.


Chiropractic care through spinal manipulations can aide osteoarthritis by increased range of motion, can give normal movement once again in the spine, muscles become relaxed and pain is greatly lessened and joint coordination shows remarkable improvement.

Scientific literature has advocated that using chiropractic care in conjunction with glucosamine supplements along with the stretches and exercises given by your chiropractor is a sound treatment for osteoarthritis.

Chiropractors also will not use any direct thrusts or pressure to areas which are red swollen joints.

Clinical studies have proved the usefulness of chiropractic spinal manipulations for treating osteoarthritis.

A case study report on Chiropractic Care and Osteoarthritis does have an effect on the progression of the arthritis and further larger studies need to be done.

Massage Therapy

Massage therapy like Swedish massage had proved beneficial for osteoarthritis in randomized trial. It can provide improvement in functioning and pain reduction.

So if we women wish to wear high heels we can do so but need to be cautious these days. The following are some guidelines for high heels. Here are just a couple.

Purchase shoes that fit. We all have known at least one woman in our time that will try and fit her feet into a shoe a half of size smaller. Also, do not assume you always wear the same size shoe. Just a few additional pounds of weight can alter your shoe size.

Purchase shoes a little wider, they really do not stretch based on the "breaking in" stage.

Purchase shoes towards the end of your day. Simple daily tasks done that require you to be on your feet can cause them to swell some. By the time your done with the daily tasks and relax some then go to store to purchase shoes your feet should be normal once more.

Easy rule leathers will give synthetics will not.

Avoid pointy toes. Choose square or rounded.

Try purchasing shoes under three inches for your ankle, knees and backs sake. Keep the same heel height if possible. Switching heel heights too often can cause problems with the Achilles tendon.

If you have knee pain that persists consult your health care practitioner. Do not wear the high heels.

Some proof unfortunately has been linked to high heels and osteoarthritis of the knee.

Basically we are back to the familiar battle of heels and osteoarthritis of knee, back pain and ankles.

Scientific evidence proves and disproves the associations. Basic theory in practice is do not wear high heels daily. Wear ones that fit. Try and keep heels three inches and under. If you notice pain in ankles, knees, back or hips after wearing high heels, it is best to stop wearing them and have your practitioner check out the pain.