July 2010

Habitual high-heeled shoe wearers exhibit musculotendinous changes

In the moment: Footcare

Women who are so accustomed to high heels that they feel uncomfortable in flat shoes demonstrate musculotendinous changes compared to those who prefer flats, according to research from Manchester Metropolitan University in the U.K.

Investigators recruited 11 women between the ages of 20 and 50 who had regularly worn heels 5 cm or higher for two years or more and said they felt uncomfortable walking without them.

Calf muscle volume, as measured using MRI, did not differ significantly between the high-heeled group and a control group of women who did not wear high heels. However, ultrasound measurements indicated that the calf muscle fibers were 13% shorter in those who wore high heels. MRI also revealed that Achilles tendons were thicker and stiffer, but not shorter, in the high heeled group.

“When you place the muscles in a shorter position, the fibers become shorter,” said Marco Narici, PhD, a professor of physiology of ageing at the university and a co-author of the study, which appears in the August issue of the Journal of Experimental Biology.

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