The truth about high heels and back pain

Don’t get me wrong. I love the way a pair of high heels looks with skinny jeans or a cocktail dress, but they make my lower back (and feet! But I’ll stick to the lower back today) hurt like hell.

That being said, I understand the desire to sacrifice comfort for a night of feeling cute, so let’s talk about why those sexy black pumps don’t feel so sexy when you wake up the next day with your lower back talking to you AND what you can do about it.

Let’s be real. You did not evolve to walk around on your toes and an ice pick. 

While wearing heels can make your legs look a mile long, they shorten the heck out of your calf and inhibit foot and ankle motion. There’s a reason why it’s so hard to stand and walk in heels. You’ve removed the ability to move through your foot and ankle while forcing yourself to balance over your toes. 

And here’s the thing, your feet and ankles are brilliant and complex joints designed for walking. So if you turn them into attractively bound prisoners for the sake of fashion, you are going to have to move “extra” through other joints…like your lower back. 

While I could give you an impressively long winded biomechanical explanation of how that happens, I’ll leave it at this. Your joints prefer a goldilocks approach. Move too much or too little through one area and it’s going to feel icky.

Now does this mean that you are going to damage your spine by wearing heels? Probably not, but the fact remains that it won’t feel great.

So what can you do to mitigate the discomfort?

The obvious answer is limit how much you wear heels or pick a shoe with a wider toe box and a lower wider heel – buuuuuuu-uuuuut I get it. A functional shoe just isn’t as fun as that killer stiletto.

So let’s say that you’re going to go all in on the suffering. Then what?

Here’s my tips for helping your back feel better after a long night out in your killer footwear.

  1. Stretch or foam roll your calves, hamstrings, inner thighs, glutes, and quads.
  2. Stretch or mobilize your upper back (I didn’t go there in this post, but standing in heels can make your upper back stiff AF, which can put a lot of pressure on the lower back)
  3. Strengthen your ankles, hips, glutes, and core, because the stronger you are, the better your body can handle physical stress – high heels included!

Looking for some specific exercises to help you with this?

Check out the Hips Don’t Lie FREE Challenge for simple and effective exercises that you can do at home to reduce lower back and hip stiffness + improve flexibility. 

In conclusion, this post doesn’t exist to shoe shame you. Rather, my hope is always to give you enough information to understand your experiences while empowering you with the knowledge of what you can do to feel better in your body.

Also, life exists for more than function. Sometimes we just want to have fun and if running in heels or crushing it on the dance floor (remember those? I never liked them and I’ve been in my house for so long thanks to COVID that I almost miss them) is your sport of choice, I support you.

Just remember to stretch your calves. 😉

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