When it comes to your shoes, high heels in particular, does fashion trump function? Does the thought of high heels inspire you to take a trip to the shoe store? Do you enjoy the prospect of being a few inches taller in your shoes? Then read on!
Although high heels may seem appropriate at times and lend a sense of style and elegance to your appearance, they can have detrimental effects on your feet, legs, back and even upper body.
4 Tips to Strengthen Leg Muscles, Improve Balance and Reduce the Negative Effects of High Heels:
Calf muscles: Heels leave your calf muscles in a shortened position, which can mean weakened muscles when the heels come off. Stretching after wearing heels can help alleviate discomfort and improve flexibility. Using a foam roller is a great way to reduce muscle restrictions, and try this classic calf/plantar fascia stretch:
- Sit with your legs extended and your knees straight.
- Loop a towel around the leg to be stretched.
- Position the towel so that it goes around your foot just under the toes.
- Hold each end of the towel in each hand, with your hands positioned above your knees.
- Pull back with the towel so that your foot stretches toward you.
- Hold the position for at least 30 seconds. Repeat 2 to 4 times a session, up to 5 sessions a day.
Ankles: Your ankles are probably not as strong as you may think and are key to walking comfortably and confidently in high heels. Practice this simple exercise, which uses all of the ankle muscles, to improve your coordination.
- Sit on a chair with your legs off the ground.
- Write the entire alphabet in the air with one foot.
- Repeat with the opposite foot.
Balance: Walking in heels takes good balance. This challenges not just your feet and ankles but your entire leg and core, along with your equilibrium. Try some of these:
- Walk in a straight line like on a balance beam, heel-to-toe.
- Try single leg stance exercises such as standing on one foot with eyes open then eyes closed.
- Stand on a cushion or other soft surface while balancing as above.
- Adding some abdominal and core exercises is also a good idea to improve balance and coordination.
Achilles tendon: Switching from heels to flats often can strain your Achilles tendon, the tissue that attaches your calf muscles to your heel.
Try This Heel Drop Exercise to Strengthen This Area:
- Stand with one foot on a step and your heel raised up.
- Slowly lower your heel down, keeping your leg straight, until your foot is parallel to the ground, but no further.
- Then push up to the starting position again.
- Repeat 3-15 times, twice a day.
- Repeat the exercise with your other ankle.
If you follow these tips, your feet will thank you and you’ll be more likely to enjoy all types of shoes for a long time. And… don’t forget to give your sneakers their due.