Are High Heels Safe for Expectant Mothers? - Crozer-Keystone Health System - PA

Published on March 31, 2015

Are High Heels Safe for Expectant Mothers?

Crozer-Keystone Health SystemMedia Contact:
Mary Wascavage
(610) 284-8619

In general, high heels are not the ideal type of footwear to don if you’re concerned with your health and posture.

Wearing heels while pregnant
increases the risk of foot
problems, especially if you wear
them every day.

When the pregnant Kate Middleton visited the U.S. last December, she caught some flack for wearing high heels. Doctors and royal watchers alike voiced their opinions that it wasn’t appropriate or healthy for a woman to wear high heels during pregnancy.

Is this true or were these folks just trying to get their 15 minutes?

High Heels Effect on Health

In general, high heels are not the ideal type of footwear to don if you’re concerned with your health and posture, regardless of if you’re pregnant.

While a pair of 4-inch heels may look great with your outfit, studies have shown that wearing them can take a toll on your spine, hips, knees, ankles and, yes, your feet. But this rarely stops women from wearing them occasionally or even daily.

Our bodies are meant to walk heel-to-toe, with the leg at about a 90-degree angle to the foot and ankle joint. This results in a 60-degree range of motion during your normal daily activities. However, if you’re wearing a pair of heels, this isn’t possible.

When you wear high heels, your body will attempt to compensate for the change in balance they cause by flexing or forward bending the hips and spine. To maintain balance, your calf, hip and back muscles become tense, causing muscle fatigue and strain. Over time, wearing heels can also cause your calf muscles to cramp and bulge.

What About If You’re Pregnant?

“There is no medical reason why high heels cannot be worn during pregnancy. However, it is important to remember that weight distribution shifts as the pregnancy progresses, leading to imbalance and possible fall,” said Crozer-Keystone OB/GYN Lewis Lo, M.D. “In addition, back and pelvic pain are common in a normal pregnancy, and the change in posture necessary to accommodate the high heels only worsens the symptoms.”

Anytime you wear heels, you’re at risk of developing calluses, corns, capsulitis (a painful inflammation of the joints where the toes attach to the foot), and inflammation of the connective tissue at the bottom of the foot, the plantar fascia. Wearing heels while you’re pregnant does increase the risk of these problems, especially if you wear them every day.

However, as long as you’re steady on your high heel-wearing feet, you don’t have to worry that you’re endangering you or your baby’s health.

During pregnancy, your center of gravity is shifted. If you feel like you are at risk of falling, which could cause an impact to your belly, you might want to refrain from wearing heels. This feeling may be more apparent as you get closer to your due date.

“In general, if you are accustomed to wearing high heels prior to pregnancy and feel stable wearing them, then there is no reason to restrict in the early stages of pregnancy,” Dr. Lo continues. “However, once you start feeling uncomfortable or unstable, then it is better to switch to comfortable shoes with good support for the duration of the pregnancy.”

If you do decide to wear heels, pregnant or not, there are some things you can do to drastically lower the negative effect of these shoes:

  • Avoid wearing heels for long periods of time
  • Stretch leg muscles before and after putting them on
  • Try to set your limit to 2-inch heels
  • Avoid pointed-toe heels
  • Pick shoes with leather insoles – they keep your feet from slipping
  • Buy heels with good padding at the balls of the foot and a gradual slope

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