The Effects of High Heels on the Feet

Most heel lovers notice that shoes that were easy to wear in their twenties becoming painful from their thirties. That feeling of late-in-the-day foot fatigue and painful friction from heels too narrow in the toe area. Not to mention throbbing feet, in the ball of the foot area, that feel like have walked on hard marble because of increased pressure they have endured during the day.

Let’s be FRANK (no pun intended) - we weren’t designed to wear high heels, and here’s why...

Altered Positions of Joints
Walking in high heels alters the natural angles your joints were designed to function, which in turn increases stress at the hip and knee. This can predispose long-term wearers of high-heeled shoes to pain anywhere from
the back to lower limbs and even be a contributing factor to arthritis. Studies have found that, in women, past high heel use increased odds of hallux valgus (bunions!) by 47%.

Another finding is that more women today are experiencing shortening of their calf muscles and tightening of their Achilles tendons from frequently wearing heels. This unfortunately can then lead to extra strain on the foot.

Foot Pain
Long-term wearing of footwear that increases forefoot pressure is responsible for foot symptoms secondary to wearing high-heel shoes.

Forefoot pain such as metatarsalagia (pain in ball of foot) and morton's neuroma (‘thickened and painful pinched nerve’ in forefoot) are common foot pathologies caused by the ball of the foot being overloaded in high-heels.

Excessive Pressure on the Ball of the Foot
Generally speaking, walking with high-heel shoes can cause around 30% increase in pressure in the forefoot in comparison with low heels.

The higher the heel height though, the higher the pressure under the forefoot.
Studies have also shown that as the heel height increases, the peak pressure shifts towards the big toe joint and overloads it

The big toe joint is a very important joint so damaging this joint can lead to myriad secondary foot problems such as fat pad atrophy (thinning out of a ‘fat pad cushion we are born with that helps cushion forefoot), metatarsalgia (pain in ball of foot) and Morton's neuroma (‘ thickened and painful pinched nerve’ in forefoot).

The cost to society as a result of surgeries required to correct hammertoes, bunions and morton's neuroma excision is huge - it has been estimated that 75% of these surgeries are a result of or at least aggravated by the use of high-fashion footwear.

Instead of trading down to flats, Australian label FRANKiE4 footwear has revolutionised the way high heels are made.

McCulloch, a qualified Podiatrist and Physiotherapist, aimed to solve the problem that has plagued women for years - how to enjoy the height of and look of a heel without compromising on comfort.

FRANKiE4 founder Caroline McCulloch and the FRANKiE4 team have re-engineered the high heel, with an eye towards fashion but also with foot biomechanics in mind. Cushioning and support is strategically biased in the designs to where the foot needs it by taking into consideration the foot strains, stresses and peak pressure when it is placed in a ‘high heel angle’. Clever!

FRANKiE4’s unique specialised footbeds are dual density, meaning they have a soft outer-layer to provide cushioning, and a firm under-layer to provide heel and arch support.

The designs also ensure adequate width and toe-box depth (in a clever way so it doesn’t appear to ‘chunky’) across the forefoot to minimise compression. This help
enable the foot to function as well as possible at a high heel angle.

Supporting the Arch Height

Every style features a unique specialised hidden footbed that supports and cushions the foot with the aim to help minimise the drop in arch height.

Read more here on our clever
Functional Footbeds here.

FRANKiE4, has styles for day, work and special occasions (price range RRP $180-$290). But what's inside the shoes – and the team creating them – are anything but familiar.

For high resolution images of our full range see here.

Topics of Interest


Common Causes of Heel and Arch Pain
Pregnancy is not a Friend to Feet
Fashionable Footwear for Bunion Sufferers
Why Your Feet Don't get any Better With Age


The Effects of High Heels on the Feet


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