Today I want to talk about high heels.
But not just these high heels,
or these high heels,
I also want to talk about these high heeled sneakers as well;
We all intuitively know that high heels are bad for our posture, and the effects flow up the entire kinetic chain. What most people miss is that nearly everyone is wearing some form of heeled shoe for most part of every day.
1. Shortened Achilles-Calf Complex
When you do a calf raise, the belly of the calf shortens as you lift the heel away from the ground. When you live in a heeled shoe, you're effectively doing the same thing but in a relaxed position. Wear heeled shoes for long enough and that calf and Achilles will chronically shorten up and become tighter, reducing your range of motion at the ankle joint.
The good news is, it's pretty easy to counteract. Just smash the foam roller every day through your calves, maybe even on the trigger point ball as well. Then work on your knee to dorsiflexion stretch. Keep that going above 10 centimetres and you should be all right.
2. Anterior Pelvic Tilt
The body has a natural resting posture. With the ear, on the shoulder, on top of the hip bone, on top of the ankle bones. When we raise the heel, in order to stop us from falling forwards, our pelvis and lower back adjust to keep everything upright. This is called an anterior pelvic tilt. As that pelvis rotates forward and slopes this way, the lumbar spine has to extend back into the lordosis to keep the ear and the shoulder on top of the hip and ankle. Now the effects of an anterior pelvic tilt, it deserves its own article episode. Let's just put it this way, there's a few.
Now, in a small heel raise these effects are subtle, but that doesn't really matter. If you add up all the hours you spend in a shoe or in a sneaker over the course of a day, those effects can really accumulate. You let those accumulate for long enough and they can start a domino effect of postural change that can really affect you biomechanics, your performance and your postural health.
All running shoes or training shoes have what's called a heel to toe drop. Most structured running shoes live somewhere in the ten to twelve millimetre mark. That means there is ten to twelve millimetres of differential between the heel height and the toe height, but it varies.
For example, you know in Nike frees the number on the side? That's not referring to the version. That's referring to the gradient. For example, the system works at zero would be a completely flat, zero drop barefoot shoe. While a 10 would be a full structured, bulky sneaker. The 3.0 is the lowest they go in mens (there is a 1.0 in womens) or the closest to a minimalist shoe. The 3.0 has about a four millimetre-drop. While the 5.0 has about a seven to nine differential from heel to toe, depending on the model.
Now, the best way to overcome these problems or correct for them, is to spend some time in a minimalist shoe or barefoot with a zero drop flat situation. If you can't do that, spending some time in something with lesser degree of the heel to toe drop than a traditional shoe is a pretty good start.
A word of warning though, it takes times for the muscles, the tendons, the ligaments and the bones to adapt to a change. Even if that change is for the best. Start gradually, start very slowly and build your way up into barefoot training. It's not for everyone, but it is well worth the investment if you're prepared to take the time and be patient making the transition.