In my large city, I rarely see a woman past 50 in the highest heels, at least by day. Most wear the moderate pump, kitten heels or flats. Women in their 20s and 30s, though, lope along in four inches or higher.
Much as I admire their pretty pairs, I simply can't walk in heels without pain, and now I've learned why.
A kinesiology masters student, Danielle Barkema, had 15 women walk in flats, 2-inch and 3.5-inch heels. Using sensors, cameras and other equipment, she measured the forces acting on their knee joints and the shock wave traveling up their bodies from the heel strike.
As heels got higher, compression grew on the inside of the knee. Heels two inches and higher also changed joint positions at the ankle, hip and trunk.
"I tell my friends to wear high heels in moderation", Barkema said, "and if possible, to wear lower heels."
Heights of pleasure
How can bad girls go good? A few ways to mitigate the damage, below.
A wedge gives more stability than a thin heel. Nike Air Delfina Open-Toe Wedge with internal cushioning, cork platform, leather upper. Price, $198 from Zappos.
More heft to the heel creates less shock on the joint. The Charles Jourdan "Fae" is still high, but the chunky heel is far gentler than a stiletto. Price, $225 from Zappos.
|Camel architectural heel|
Look for a padded footbed. You can buy inserts, but they can make the fit too tight. Kors calls his "MK-Flex"; his python pumps with 3-inch heel pack that secret soother. Price, $110 from Zappos.
|Glazed python pump|
Switch to flats, at least some days. Many women say they never thought they'd wear them, but then realized after trying a pair that their headache was gone. Aquatalia's studded patent "Ogle" flats prove flat isn't frumpy. You might have to re-hem your pants, but you'll be able to skip across town. Price, $225 from Zappos; also in red.