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The Stiletto Workout: Prevent and Treat Pain From High Heels

Women wear heels for a variety of reasons: to feel more confident, taller, sexier, more professional, etc. But wearing high heels comes with a price: They can wreak havoc on your feet and back and can cause chronic pain.

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Wearing heels alters the natural position of the foot by elevating it to an extreme angle. But this foot position can also cause pain in more parts of the body than just your feet. 

Wearing heels can cause Achilles tendinitis (inflammation of the Achilles tendon and tightening of the calve muscles); capsulitis (inflammation of the joints); neuromas (pinched nerves); back pain; and knee pain -- just to name a few issues.

A 2010 study published in the Journal of Experimental Biology found that women ages 20 to 50 who wore high heels (minimally two inches) almost daily for at least two years had calf muscle fibers that were 13 percent shorter than women who didn't wear heels.

When calf muscles shorten, it puts more stress on the Achilles tendon, causing it to tighten and resulting in injury and stiffness.

If you must wear shoes with heels, make sure to perform this workout to realign your body and decrease the likelihood of injury. This workout can also prevent the constant pain that comes with wearing heels often.

The Stiletto Workout

1. Heel Walks: With your legs perfectly straight, walk forward on your heels for 10 yards. Do this two times. 

2. Ankle Circles: In a standing position, lift your right heel, keeping your toes lightly on the ground, swivel your ankle around in a circle. Perform 10 circles in each direction with each foot.

3. Calf Raises: Stand facing a wall. Place your hands on the wall in front of you, feet together and about one foot from wall. (Your body is at a slight lean forward). Raise your heels up until you're on the balls of your feet, then lower back down for 10 repetitions.

- Do 10 reps with heels together, toes pointed out.
- Do 10 reps with heels pointing out, toes together.
- Do 10 reps with your left leg only.
- Do 10 reps with your right leg only.

4. Calf Stretch: Stand facing a wall. Place the ball of one foot on the wall and your heel on the floor. Keep your leg straight. Then bend your knee and feel the stretch in the Achilles tendon. Hold each stretch five seconds between each set and hold at the end of the circuit for 10 seconds each.

5. Single-Leg Side Lunge to Sweep-In Adductor:
Side lunge: Begin in the start position with feet and hips facing straight ahead. Take one large step to your right and bend your knee as if you were performing a squat, keeping your left leg straight.

Sweep-in adductor: Then push off of your right leg, driving through the right heel. As you come up and your right leg straightens, lift your right leg and "sweep" it past your left leg. Return to the start position. Do 10 reps, then repeat on the left side with 10 reps.

6. Lying-Side Butterfly Wings: Lie down on one side, legs stacked on top of each other, knees bent at a 90-degree angle. Keep your hips facing forward, then lift the top knee up, but keep your feet together. Do 20 reps, then repeat on the other with 20 reps.

7. Core Work: Finish with core-strengthening moves. If your core is strong and fit, it will help prevent low-back pain.

Perform 10 seconds of each:
- Plank
- Side plank (right)
- Side plank (left)
- Plank
- Bridge
- Repeat

If you can't resist wearing heels, try these tips to find a happy medium for your feet and back:

Split the difference: Wear a pair of athletic shoes or flats for your commute, then swap them out for heels once you get to the office. Alternate between heels and flats during the week. There are plenty of professional and stylish flats out there to give your feet a break!

Go wide: Sky-high stilettos are the worst culprits for foot pain. A skinny stiletto heel not only changes your foot's position to a greater degree, it also provides less support at the ball of your foot, which means a higher chance of spraining or breaking an ankle. Choose a thicker, wider heel or try a pair of wedges.

Go low: There's no need to wear four-inch heels all the time. Kitten heels are a perfect way to be comfortable and look sassy, sexy or professional all at the same time.

So if you choose to wear heels, take appropriate steps to offset the damage and help your feet and your body recover.

To see all these moves, check out this video:


Readers -- Do you wear high heels on a regular basis? If so, how do you alleviate the pain and foot stress from wearing them? Have you experienced serious physical issues from wearing high heels? Leave a comment below and let us know.

Lisa Reed, M.S., CSCS, is a USA Fitness Champion, IFBB Pro, personal trainer, educator, motivator and owner of Lisa Reed Fitness, LLC, where she leads a team of in-home personal trainers in the Washington, D.C., area. Lisa and her team design online fitness and nutrition programs for clients around the world. She has trained hundreds of elite and professional athletes, including Monica Seles. She was the first female strength coach at the United States Naval Academy and trained top athletes as a strength coach at the University of Florida.

Connect with Lisa on her websiteFacebookTwitterYouTube and Instagram.

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