A New Study Reveals How High Heels REALLY Mess Up Your Feet—and What To Do About It

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Photo: Imaxtree

You’ve been told ad nauseam that running around in your beloved five-inch stilettos pretty much wreaks havoc on your entire body, yet you just can’t seem to quit. We’re right there with you. But a new study might inch us all closer to reaching for those flats collecting dust in the closet.

Research published in the International Journal of Clinical Practice revealed that wearing high heels not only weakens your ankle muscles, but slipping into shoes that stand at 3.9 inches or higher three times a week can also cause an imbalance in four ankle muscles. Yikes.

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The methodology included asking healthy college students to wear heels to their classes, and—surprisingly—found the shoes actually strengthened ankle muscles at first. Over time though, they cased caused the muscle weakening and imbalance, which is a crucial predictor of long-term ankle injury.

Not all hope is lost, however. If sky-high shoes are a firm fixture in your wardrobe, the study’s co-author, Dr. Yong-Seok Jee, suggests performing ankle strengthening exercises. Here are three you should do regularly to reduce the risk of some serious high heel-induced issues.

Toe tappers: Sit in a chair and remove your shoes. Then, flex your right ankle to lift your foot off the ground while keeping the heel on the floor. Lower your foot completely to the ground, and repeat quickly. Do the same on your left foot.

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Heel raises: Stand next to a strong counter or table to use to assist your balance. Lift one foot and stand with your weight on the other foot. Rise up on your toes and then lower back onto your full foot. Repeat on both sides.

Heel walking: Flex your feet to lift your toes off the floor completely and balance entirely on your heels. Then, walk forward for up to one minute on heel. Rest and repeat on the other side.