These Doctors Have Different Opinions on the Pros and Cons of Wearing High Heels

Thinking about adding a new pair of high heels to your spring wardrobe? You might want to consider advice from the medical community before heading out shoe shopping. While the recent awards season had a number of actresses on the red carpet hiding a pair of sneakers under their designer gowns, there were still plenty of celebrities willing to withstand a bit of pain in order to step into a pair of sexy stilettos.

Here, a duo of doctors who have launched their own shoe collections weigh in on the pros and cons of wearing high heels.

While Dr. Casey Kerrigan, who created one of the first 3D gait and motion laboratories in the U.S., and founder of OESH footwear, is a firm believer in the negative impact of heels on one’s health, Dr. Joan Oloff, a podiatrist, has developed a line of high-end heels that incorporate a range of technical comfort features.

Dr. Casey Kerrigan

1. “High heels increase joint torques/moments/pressures that are associated with the development and progression of knee osteoarthritis. Once it develops, it’s difficult to treat. Research has found it doesn’t matter if heels are narrow (stiletto), wide, or whether any special features or inserts are incorporated into the shoe [to prevent osteoarthritis], since they all increase these pressures on the knee by 23 to 26 percent.”

2. “Girls and young women are far more susceptible than boys and young men to develop knee conditions such as chondromalacia patella, where cartilage behind the kneecap doesn’t develop normally. High heels abnormally increase the pressures on the knee in the areas where these conditions develop.”

Dr. Casey Kerrigan
Dr. Casey Kerrigan, founder of Oesh Shoes.
CREDIT: Courtesy of brand

3. “When wearing high heels, the ankle’s forced into a naturally unstable position, which over time causes irreversible ligament damage to the ankle. Normally, without a heel elevation there’s an excellent glove-like fit between the leg bone and the heel bone. A heel elevation changes the angle between these bones, which reduces that glove-like fit placing increased strain on the ligaments. Ankle instability also increases the risk for ankle sprains causing further irreversible ligament damage, making the ankle even more unstable, which then increases the risk for further ankle sprains both with and without high heels.

4. “Heels contribute to forefoot pain – metatarsalgia and Morton’s neuroma – which can be very debilitating and far more common in women than in men.”

5. “High heels also contribute to painful and disabling (if not just very unattractive) foot abnormalities including bunions and hammertoes. And, they can contribute to varicose veins.“


Dr. Joan Oloff

1.“[Comfort] starts with the last. Ours are anatomically shaped with the foot and not just the shoe in mind.”

2. “The shape of the [interior] heel of the shoe allows the heel of the foot to drop down [for stability]. It’s like having an orthotic built into the shoe’s construction. Since the heel is cupped and stable, the ball of the foot is off loaded. We also have hidden platforms, which will reduce the pitch of the shoe.”

3. “I make my own molds with arch support since the foot sits differently in a heel than in a flat. We combine arch support and metatarsal pads, with the metatarsal pad used as an additional mechanism to off-load the foot. There’s also a canal [created] underneath the ball of the foot filled with shock-absorbing medical grade Poron, so the ball of the foot doesn’t hit the insole board.”

Dr. Joan Oloff
CREDIT: Courtesy of brand

4. “Heel height. I prefer not to go higher than 4 inches. If you go higher, you can’t do much with an internal platform. You have to use an external platform to reduce the pitch. I make my own heel shapes that include block heels and stilettos. You can create a stable shoe even with a narrow heel as long as the last is stable. For women who don’t want to wear a high heel, a kitten heel is a great compromise.”

5. “[For materials], we use calfskin that’s baby soft and allows the shoe to mold to the foot rather than fight the foot. There’s also a plug under the ball of the foot that’s visible on the sole that helps both in traction and shock absorption.”

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