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Aug 18, 2015 06:31 PM EDT

High Heels May Damage Legs, Back

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The benefits do not outweigh the risks when it comes to high heel shoes, according to a recent study.

Researchers at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte found that although "wearing heels can strengthen the ankle initially, it leads to weakening and instability over time," The Express Tribune reported. This could eventually lead to leg and back issues.

"Initially when wearing heels the muscles that surround the ankles have to continuously contract to keep you upright and walking," Tricia Turner, researcher and associate professor of kinesiology, said in a statement. "Over time you need less muscle contraction as the lower leg muscles adapt to the changes in footwear. Once that occurs less muscle contraction occurs."

For the study, researchers collected and analyzed data from women raining to be flight attendants. They looked at ankle strength and balance and collected data for each class year, freshman through senior, to consider the effects of high heels over time.

Turner noted that high heels "force the foot into a naturally unstable position, which can cause problems," The Express Tribune reported. 

"In sneakers or flat shoes, the foot is positioned in neutral where the bones of the ankle are under the bones of the lower leg, creating a more stable joint and a decreased likelihood of injury," she said. "High-heeled shoes also change the normal walking or gait cycle, with the ultimate result being a less fluent gait cycle."

The ligament and nerve damage in the ankle sustained from wearing high heels could lead to issues in the leg and back.

"Changes at the ankle cause the muscles higher in the leg and back to lose efficiency and strength. It also changes the load the bones in and around the knee have to absorb which can ultimately lead to injury," Turner explained.

However, researchers said a combination of stretching and strength and balance training could minimize the risk of injury.

The findings are detailed in the International Journal of Clinical Practice.

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