Fashion Week saw towering models look even more imposing by putting them on foot-size pedestals. But when it comes to high-heel shoes, they shouldn’t be confined to the catwalk.
“My advice to any woman would be to stand up straight and wear high heels,” says spine surgeon Dr. Alfred O. Bonati. “I think that is probably the best exercise women can have.”
Here’s why: Walking essentially on tiptoes is an exercise that strengthens your feet over time. The elevation changes your gait because you’re forced to hold your knees and back straight, which takes the impact of walking off the spine.
Flat shoes, meanwhile, may only seem more comfortable in the short term.
“When you walk with flat shoes, you go heel first, and that pressure goes directly from the heel to the back of the leg up to the back,” Bonati says. “The pressure there is when you start to have back pain.”
Bonati says tall women, who tend to wear flat shoes all the time, often complain of having a lot of back pain. But shorter women (up to 5’6”) tend to walk around in high heels from an early age. “They develop a fantastic sexy walk, a bounce to their walk, because what they are doing is they are using the knee, reducing the impact on the back.” High heels also tend to lead to hip-swaying, which cuts down on stress for the pelvis and sacroiliac joint, a shock-absorbing segment of the spine just above the tailbone.
Bonati recommends a minimum 3-inch heel, “though 4-5 inches is the most effective.” And save up for brand name shoes, which are not just pretty but tend to be made with better arch support, which sets apart a heel you can wear all day and one that has your feet feeling like they are in a vice after an hour. “You cannot just have high shoes from a mediocre builder, because what happens is the arch support is going to collapse, the pressure is going to be all on the heel and you’re going to develop a heel spur or damage the metatarsals.”
And yes, Bonati has a recommendation: Jimmy Choos. “It’s not only a beautiful shoe — it fits like a glove.”