Women who habitually wear high heels have shorter muscle fibers in their calves and thicker Achilles' tendons than those who walk in flat shoes, researchers say. The result? The heel lovers’ tendons stiffen and become harder to stretch, which could explain why walking hurts after kicking off the Jimmy Choos, according to a small study published in the Journal of Experimental Biology. The researchers found that wearing heels affected muscle fiber length--the high heel wearers' muscle fibers were 13 percent shorter than those who wore flat shoes. For some women, once the heels come off, the pain starts because the muscles can't stretch enough, the researchers said.
Wearing a variety of different types of shoes and stretching may help alleviate the pain, according to the study authors. But Chicago podiatrist Steve Weinberg, who was not involved with the study, questioned whether it's possible to stretch the Achilles tendon enough to make a clinical difference. "If women are going to wear high heels, they should be prudent—stand or walk in them for a short time,” said Weinberg, a podiatrist at the Weil Foot & Ankle Institute and the longtime chief podiatrist for the Chicago Marathon.
Source: Julie Deardorff, Chicago Tribune [7/16/10]