Foot care

Bethany Aitken, clinical services manager at AXA Health

How to look after your feet

27 July 2023

Bethany Aitken, clinical services manager at AXA Health, explains how wearing high heels can affect your musculoskeletal system, and what you can do to take better care of your feet and help reduce the chance of damage to your body.

You don’t have to toss out your favourite wedges or strappy sandals, the key to preventing problems that may result from wearing high heels is to avoid wearing them day in and day out.

Why are high heels an issue?

The most common health problems caused by high heels are felt in your feet. The highest heels – over five inches – place the most strain on the body. The higher the heel, the greater the pressure on the front of your foot.

For every inch of heel height, you increase the pressure on the forefoot by another 25%. Wear an 8cm heel (just over 3”) and the pressure increases to about 75% more than normal1.

The result? Unnatural loading of the forefoot can lead to:

  • hammer toe deformities becoming more painful (the toe is bent at the middle joint, so that it resembles a hammer)2,
  • bunions being more painful,
  • callouses,
  • and thickening of the nerves between the toes - Morton’s neuroma

If you wear high heels daily you may also find that your Achilles tendon at the back of your ankle changes, becoming tight, thickened and shortened.

The effect on your body

The strain doesn’t stop at your feet. High heels tend to push your body weight forward and so you need to work harder to counteract this and prevent yourself from falling forward.

This can place extra strain on your knees, and can alter the natural curvature of your back, which can lead to knee and back pain.

If you already have alignment problems in these areas, wearing high heels for long periods could make them worse.

Wear in small doses

Keeping your high heels for special occasions will save you some of the problems that come from wearing high heels daily.

For everyday wear, try to keep to heels no more than 3cm (about 1¼”) high.

Wear your heels for as short a period as possible, taking them off when you need to walk longer distances or when you’re sitting, and carry some flat, supportive shoes to change into.

How can you help reduce the damage?

Taking care of your feet doesn’t mean a lifetime spent in flats. These tips should help you reduce the impact that wearing high heels has on your feet and body:

1) Try some shock absorbing pads and callous protectors for the parts of your feet that hurt the most. You should find these in most chemists.

2) When you take your high heels off, mobilize your foot and ankle, by moving your foot in a circular motion. Stretch your Achilles tendon by stretching your legs out in front of you and pushing your heels down and your toes up. Or stand with your front foot on a step, keeping your knee straight, drop your heel below the stair level.

3) Keep fit and work on your overall body posture and muscle tone. Pilates exercises are excellent for building good postural control.

4) Wear shoes with varying heel heights. This will give your tendons and joints a rest from holding the same position.

5) Most of all, listen to your body. You’ll know when high heels are placing too much strain on your body.

For more information on foot care and treatment, visit our musculoskeletal centre.


  1. Why High Heels Are Bad for You – Verywell Health
  2. Hammer toe – Ortho Info

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