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High Heels Affect Health
The higher the heel, the greater
the risk for knee osteoarthritis and
joint degeneration; © SXC
A new study by an Iowa State University (ISU) kinesiology master's student has found that prolonged wearing of and walking in high heels can contribute to joint degeneration and knee osteoarthritis.
Danielle Barkema, an ISU student, recently completed her thesis research studying the effects of high-heeled walking on forces acting on lower extremity joints. Kinesiology professor and department head Phil Martin assisted her in the study.
"Obviously with research like this, you can't say with any certainty that if you wear high heels regularly you will develop osteoarthritis. We don't know that," Barkema said. "There are probably people [high heel wearers] who do and those who do not. However, based on this information, wearing high heels puts individuals at greater risk for developing osteoarthritis. And it seems to be that the higher the heel height, the greater the risk."
Barkema selected three different heel heights – flat, two inches, and 3.5 inches – and had each of the 15 women in her study complete walking trials. She measured the forces acting about the knee joint and the heelstrike-induced shock wave that travels up the body when walking in heels. Using sensors, accelerometers and lab equipment such as a force platform and markers/cameras, she was able to capture motion and force data and translate them into results that could change the way millions of women select their footwear.
While previous studies have examined the effect of high heels on joints, the ISU researchers found that heel height changes walking characteristics such as slower speeds and shorter stride lengths. And as the heels got higher, they also saw an increase in the compression on the inside – or medial side – of the knee.
"Wearing high heels regularly puts a person at risk and the higher the heel, the greater the risk," Martin said. "The loading that's being produced in the joint with every step that they take is higher – or at least, these data suggest that. These are not direct measures of loading within the joint, but they're an alternative way of looking at that kind of loading."
Barkema also found that in addition to lower extremity joint problems, wearing heels – especially those two inches and higher – alters body posture by changing joint positions at the ankle, knee, hip, and trunk, which can create strain on the lower back.
"Visually, it's quite apparent that somebody's posture is altered when wearing high heels," she said. "We noted those changes in posture [in the study], as well as various joint angles, such as the knee and ankle angle. The most dramatic change occurs at the ankle."
REHACARE.de; Source: Iowa State University
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( Source: REHACARE.de )