High heels: tottery killers (infographic)

This scary-ass (and handsomely designed) infographic details the thousand and one ways that high-heels are incredibly bad for your health, posture, and long-term prospects. Link (via Lawgeek)


  1. That’s pretty puritan for boingboing, isn’t it?
    Of course I might fall easier when wearing high heels, but when I leave the house I might also be hit by a roof tile.

  2. How is she supposed to milk the cows and muck out the pigs in those things?

    All right, I’m not being serious, but there’s a serious point in there. Female fashion is so often focused on being ornamental rather than active – whether it’s shoes that you can’t walk in or nails that disable your hands. Isn’t it more sexy to be capable and independent, rather than somebody who’s likely to call a taxi rather than walk two blocks?

  3. I have a sixteen-year-old friend who has worn heels practically since birth. She actually starts falling over if she’s wearing flats. She is already having hip problems, but the source of the trouble is the attitude, not the posture. It is more or less from walking like a model all the time.

    She’s gorgeous, though.

  4. Re:the correct vs. altered images (in the upper-right corner), if the only relevant difference is supposed to be the heels, why the need to put the heel-wearing figure in such a skimpy outfit? Unnecessary for the point s/he was trying to make.

  5. “The shoes still make her look more attractive.”

    Well, on actually attractive women, they look ridiculous.

  6. So what if they’re bad for your health – we all make sacrifices in our banal quest to attract a mate?

    How many joint injuries does the average athletic male have by the time they’re thirty?

  7. Actually, many intelligent women who wear heels, and who actually pay attention to how they look, not just what they wear, learn to correct their posture for the raised heel, and learn to walk in that special strut that a heel allows. They don’t suffer the imaginary problems that someone observing a first-time wearer might assume. They do bear a slight risk of walking on a less stable platform should their attention stray, but if they remember to walk balanced on the balls of their feet, they may actually be better off than someone who never pays attention to their gait or posture.

    It’s that special attention that makes a woman in heels really look good.

  8. Almost every problem in that picture is a result of ill-fitting shoes or lack of alignment and strength in the legs and body. With knees bent and back curved, wearing shoes that don’t fit their feet, it’s no wonder that women face so many problems with their heels. In ballet, dancers have overcome such problems by practicing strength, balance, and alignment to remove stress from their knees and back, so it’s obviously possible to escape the long-term effects of high heels. It’s just a shame that there is no such preparation for heels in everyday life.

  9. “How many joint injuries does the average athletic male have by the time they’re thirty?”

    Well. if I’m any indication, it’s in double digits. But I was seeking adrenalin, not a mate. :)

  10. “Well. if I’m any indication, it’s in double digits. But I was seeking adrenalin, not a mate”

    Riiiiiight, because women find displays of physical strength and prowess sooooo unattractive.

  11. This is why I don’t wear high heeled pumps–I might attract partners who care more about fashion than common sense.

  12. I’m not sure that we can rationalize everything that women do for beauty as being for evolutionary purposes. I think at this point it has more to do with the fashion and beauty industry. There’s a lot of dough to be made by telling people that they need certain products to be attractive, and that attractiveness determines personal worth. (I would argue that the “personal worth” thing is tossed less often at guys, who get pummeled with “this product = get laid” ads more often.) And as North American couples marry later, have kids later, and increasingly find it okay to opt out of having kids entirely, the whole “women buy into this to get them a man to get them kids to pass their genes on” thing becomes a weaker evolutionary reason. And how does it explain fashion-conscious gays and lesbians, who generally don’t produce any genetic offspring with their partners?

    I used to wear heels. Religiously. Then I tried wearing sneakers for a month and never looked back. I don’t get the “I’m a confident, heel-clicking woman strutting along” feeling, but I get a new “I can climb stairs, walk on a grate, traverse an icy street, run from a predator (or towards a bus), handle a slippery floor, [etc]” sense of empowerment that I actually prefer. I don’t feel as feminine, but what has femininity done for me lately?

    Emily Haines lyrics:

    It’s pathetic, it’s impossible.
    Like girls in stilettos.
    Like girls in stilettos.
    Like girls in stilettos running to run.

  13. I think there’s any easy fix. All we need to do is declare a war on high-heeled shoes and those who wear them. The answer to almost everything is war.

  14. Conversely, the evolutionary argument also works for not wearing heels and thus not risking propagating the genes of guys who don’t give a goddamn about women’s health. And who still use the word ‘boobies’.

  15. You can tell that most of these comments are from men, and I don’t mean drag queens. Here’s a day in the life of a foot: flats to drive to work, heels to walk past the boss’s desk, shoes off as soon as you sit down, then reverse at the end of the day. Very, few women actually stand in those things for more than ten minutes at a time.

  16. #12: In ballet, dancers have overcome such problems by practicing strength, balance, and alignment to remove stress from their knees and back, so it’s obviously possible to escape the long-term effects of high heels.

    Ballet dancers are generally heavily affected by arthritis. They suffer permanent damage to the feet, ankles, knees, and hips because of what they do to their body. Like a hockey player or a football player, they exchange 5-10 years of peak physical performance for extreme wear and tear on their bodies, and early-onset of physical ailments more typically associated with people in their 60s or 70s.

  17. I’ve only worn heels once or twice (I’m a man), but I have Morton’s Neuroma, and it hurts like a mother. It’s fun to tell people I have it, though, because it sounds like cancer.

  18. This is why kitten-heels are (relatively) great! One can add a little glam on occasion, but at only an inch high, they don’t cause as much damage. Of course, flats are the preferred shoe for daily wear.

  19. I used to be an exotic dancer, and while I agree that over the long term they can be hard on the joints, I quickly learned to walk, dance, run, climb stairs, climb on and off of tall bar stools, jump, spin and otherwise function at a relatively athletic level in up to 6″ pumps without much more than a sore back and tired tootsies.

    OTOH, I was on my feet for up to 8 hours a day and I can’t imagine not having tired feet and back after a shift like that no matter what shoes I wore (and indeed, when I injured an ankle one time I created some costumes that could be worn with sneakers, and was just as tired and sore by the end of the day as always.)

  20. Sorry, the heels just make you look deer-in-the-headlights weak, a tool of “the man”. Give me a woman with running shoes any day. And to those who think practice is enough to make up for the bad alignments, you’re the same people that probably think sleep deprivation is okay once you get used to it (hint—you only THINK you’re okay).

  21. Below is one version of many stories that summarize a 2003 medical article debunking the main health risk of high heels; similar summaries are found on the web in 161 locations. (Type “Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health” and “high heels” into Google.):

    “This conclusion treads heavily on conventional medical wisdom of the last 250 years or so, which has blamed high heels for sore backs, corns, sprained ankles, abnormal gait, ingrown toenails, shortened calf muscles and hammertoe.
    “Oxford University public-health studies professor Ray Fitzpatrick, who directed the research, dismissed such beliefs as “clinical speculation. Perhaps there was also a nonspecific belief that there’s something unnatural about high heels,” he told the London Times yesterday.
    “Mr. Fitzpatrick was also dismayed by how little research had been done on high heels and a health link.”

    Now here’s the study-summary itself:

    “High Heels Could Be Good For Your Knees, British Researchers Find
    “September 29, 2003
    “London (dpa) – Dedicated followers of high-heeled fashion could be doing their knees a favour, even as they scrunch up their toes and bend their spines, according to new British research into arthritis of the knee. The worst damage to knees is done by being overweight and doing heavy cleaning work, such as scrubbing floors, according to a study by Oxford Brookes University, published in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health Monday.

    “So many women suffer from arthritis of the knee joint that doctors speculated that wearing high heels might trigger the condition, but they found being overweight before the age of 40 was much more likely to increase the risk in older women. About two per cent of over-55s suffer from knee osteoarthritis and the condition is twice as common in women as it is in men. In the survey of 111 women aged 50 to 70, 29 had varying degrees of knee pain.

    “Ray Fitzpatrick, a professor at the university, said 55.2 per cent of the women with knee arthritis had worn eight-centimetre heels regularly compared with 67.1 per cent of the healthy women. “Several factors were significantly associated with osteoarthritis of the knee, including previous knee injury, heavy smoking and being overweight. But wearing high heels was not one of them,” he said.

    “’If anything, wearing high heels seemed to be associated with a reduced risk.’”

  22. Thanks Roger #25, that’s an awesome post. This image seemed to me like it was fishing (ie, the pretty ‘pressure on forefoot graph’ – What’s the point?).

    Not that heels are comfortable or easy to walk in. Half of life is murdering yourself to make you more appealing to the other sex.

    Maybe I’m getting old. I used to trust those in the medical profession and laugh at old coots who wouldn’t seek attention. Now, more and more I’m find that they are out of touch with their own field. How can we trust these people when they’re so often wrong?

  23. Thanks,
    Very interesting post ;)
    The problem in our “women” life is beauty. We do not want to be “short”. So the question is: are we ready to suffer to be beautiful or we should care about our health? I think most women will choose the first one.

  24. Thanks,
    Very interesting post ;)
    The problem in our “women” life is beauty. We do not want to be “short”. So the question is: are we ready to suffer to be beautiful or we should care about our health? I think most women will choose the first one.

  25. I’m 4’10”. I don’t want to be taller because it’s “beautiful”. I want to be taller because I get sick of being treated like a 12 year old.

  26. High heels look best on a woman when she is having sex…and just before. But please, don’t wear ’em for running a marathon. Also, don’t use an anvil as a life preserver unless you’ve somehow found yourself sinking in liquid mercury. I guess you have to spell some things out for folks.

  27. I’ve worn high heels once. And once was enough. But I’m glad women will put up with the pain, because heels really do make a woman look better. At least to my socialized eyes. Sexy and dangerous, what could be better?

  28. Years ago, I worked at Xerox. I was always amused by the department secretaries who, on Monday, would be all excited because “look at these great heels I got at lunch for only seven bucks!” On Thursday, they’d be bitching because said seven-dollar heels hurt. Duh.

    The real problem is poor quality, badly-fitted shoes and poor posture and gait. I’ve known far too many women who actually preferred heels to make any other conclusion. But in so doing, I point out that none of these women were wearing seven-dollar lunch-hour heels from Payless.

  29. Jaw-dropping. All these flippant comments about how no matter what, the woman pictured on the right is hot, and clucking that Boing Boing is being puritan, and how it’s A-OK to systemically endanger one’s health to get a mate, and isn’t this just like sports injuries for men, and yay, it accentuates those oh so important “boobies”; or how the real problem isn’t the heels — it’s poor quality shoes, or poor posture, or women not being trained to wear heels properly (maybe it should be part of gym class in elementary school?), and then, as last recourse, grudging concessions that one can always just wear them during sex? Right, the male gaze and western standards of femininity don’t have anything to do with these shoes, it’s all about women making perfectly rational choices about being taller and sexier and gaining that all-important evolutionary advantage by bedding big virile menly men who apparently find comfortable partners a turn-off.

    This is the first time I have ever been ashamed of a comment thread on BB. How many fatbeard geek losers and their female enablers would make the same patronizing excuses if the local standard called for outright foot binding? SHEESH.


  30. Funnily enough, my fiancée’s chiropractor just told her on Friday that high heels don’t really do any damage, provided you know how to walk in them properly. Now I don’t know WHO to believe – random unattributed infographic posted on the net, or quack doctor!!

  31. I love how the woman in the graphic wearing heels is also wearing a sexy cocktail dress and the woman in the flats is wearing either boring cargo pants or “Mom Jeans”.

    As a guy I think heels are real sexy on women but I also think deformed feet and toes on 40 year old women are disgusting. All things in moderation girls.

  32. I’m short. I’m cute. People see a small person and think “child”. So I wear combat boots. I still look great, don’t slip on the ice, and can kick ass if need be. Cuz when I’m eighty, I won’t be sexy, but I will have my posture, toes, knees, and hips. Forget the high heels, combats are sexy and powerful, and turn heads when worn with skimpy cocktail dresses.

  33. Foot-binding in China lasted at least 800 years, crushing millions of tiny bones in the feet of hundreds of thousands of elite (and, sometimes, not-so-elite) girls and women. Women and men alike considered it sexy, and so it was a habit hard to break–that is, till forces outside of China’s own culture proclaimed it downright disgusting. Let’s hope that high-heels, while not quite as damaging as foot-binding, won’t be considered sexy for as long as “golden lotuses” were…

  34. I’ld rather wear heels if that would work out the same way for me. But i am a guy, so just the salad please, yes, no, no oil — and a water, please, thanks. Damn, i forgot the pushups this morning.

  35. I am entirely too cool for high heels.

    Guys smell confidence a mile away and they love it! I have so many guys all over me all the time and they always say the same things “Wow, I have never met a girl like you before!” or “There is something so special about you!”

    Girls always ask me how do I do it. All kinds of high class and quality guys fight over me all the time, even if I just jumped out of bed and threw on some raggedy baggy clothes and didn’t even brush my hair, teeth, or wash my face….

    And I’m talking models, actors, rock stars, millionaires, all over me all the time…

    The answer is very simple, I wear, do, and say whatever I want and don’t censor myself in the least.

    Hey ladies… if you really want to wear heels, please do so, BUT don’t make yourself uncomfortable just to pick up guys. They simply aren’t attracted to that kind of insecurity.

    Not only are men attracted to me, but they respect me too!

  36. This is why I prefer ‘men’s shoes’, much to the dismay of my mother the gender police. It’s soooo comfortable, when I can find something my size, and it’s uber stylish too. I can walk in high heels, but I feel way sexier in men’s shoes, sturdy.

  37. Oh yeah, the world is full of fish and what kind you get depends on the lure. You hurt yourself just to look attractive, and you do get men, the kind of men who just wants you to be attractive to them, their set of beauty, with little consideration to your health. You be yourself, and the pigs can snort all the want, but there are people out there who would like you for you.

    Though frankly, I decided that I rather be on my own, than to be with an undesirable deadweight. What’s the point of having a man that’s bad for you? The glass ceiling is still there, but we can vote, we can get jobs, we don’t need to marry for money or find a new keeper.

  38. High-heel shoes shoot up female sex life: Study

    The Indian Express, at http://www.indianexpress.com/printerFriendly/269799.html#

    Posted online: Wednesday, February 06, 2008 at 1440 hrs IST, London, February 6:

    The sight of stilettos may shoot up a man’s libido. But, if a study is to be believed, wearing the high-heel shoes can boost a woman’s sexual desire.

    Researchers in Italy have found that wearing higher heels — earlier linked to a range of problems — actually improves a woman’s pelvic floor muscles, thereby boosting her sex life.

    “Women often have difficulty in carrying out the right exercises for the pelvic zone and wearing heels could be the solution. It’s good to know they have potential health benefits,” according to lead researcher Dr Maria Cerruto.

    The researchers analysed a study of 66 women aged under 50 before coming to the conclusion.

    They found that those who held their foot at a 15 degree angle to the ground had as good posture as those who wore flat shoes, and crucially showed less electrical activity in the pelvic muscles, an essential component of female body.

    According to the researchers, this suggested the muscles were at an optimum position, which could well improve their strength and ability to contract.

    However, Gill Brook, a women’s health physiotherapist in Britain, stressed the study did not suggest that stilettos were a good thing for those keen on improving their pelvic floor function.

    “But for women who like a slightly higher heel, these are reassuring findings — although we haven’t yet done away with the need for regular exercises to maintain what is such an important part of the female body,” the ‘BBC News’ portal quoted her as saying.

    Here’s what I [RK] think the last two puzzling paragraphs are trying to say:

    1. High heels aren’t to be considered curative measures for people with problems already.
    2. “Slightly higher” doesn’t refer to higher than a stiletto, but higher than an ordinary shoe–i.e, equal to a slant of 15 degrees.

  39. High heels work better if you can afford expensive shoes.

    Women who are overweight are likelier to have bad knees. Women who are overweight are less likely to wear high heels, because the p.s.i. is punishing. Therefore, I doubt the correlation that says that women who wear high heels are less likely to have problems with their knees.

  40. If the woman ain’t looking good in sneakers she ain’t gonna be good looking in high heels. A man worth his name will appreciate more the attitude and the demeanor than a little decoration. The screaming chicken on the hood don’t make a hot rod…

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