What Muscles Do We Use When Wear High Heels

Have you ever thought about the muscles that you use when you wear high heels? It’s not just your feet and calves that are working hard to keep you balanced. In fact, wearing high heels can have an impact on muscles throughout your entire body. Let’s dive into the science behind the muscles used in high heels and the benefits and drawbacks of wearing them.

Explanation of the impact of high heels on muscle activation

High heels can have a significant impact on muscle activation in the lower extremities. Researchers have found that wearing high heels increases muscle activation, especially in the calves, quads, and shin muscles. As a result, prolonged wear of high heels can lead to shortened calf muscles and inflammation of the Achilles tendon, leading to foot and lower leg pain. Additionally, high heels can increase the activation of the erector spinae muscles, which contribute to compression of the spine. This prolonged overload and fatigue in the trunk and neck muscles can result in chronic neck pain. It is important to understand which muscles are affected by wearing high heels, as this can help reduce the risk of osteoarthritis, knee cartilage deterioration, and other musculoskeletal problems. Overall, it is important to consider the potential impact on muscle activation when deciding whether to wear high heels for extended periods of time. 

Importance of knowing which muscles are affected

It’s not just about looking good in high heels; it’s also important to understand which muscles are affected by wearing them. By knowing the impact of high heels on your body, you can make informed decisions about when and where to wear them, and for how long. For example, high heels can shorten your calf muscles and lead to discomfort and fatigue in the feet and legs. The increased muscle activity can also lead to a greater risk of muscle strain and injury. Moreover, high heels can cause osteoarthritis risk, knee cartilage deterioration, and other joint-related issues. It’s important to listen to your body, and if you notice any signs of pain or discomfort, consider switching to more comfortable footwear. Knowing which muscles are affected by wearing high heels can help you make informed choices and take steps to protect your health and wellbeing. 

Muscles Activated While Wearing High Heels

Gastrocnemius muscle

The gastrocnemius muscle, commonly known as the calf muscle, is one of the major muscles affected by wearing high heels. When wearing high heels, the foot is forced into a plantarflexed position, which shortens the calf muscle-tendon unit. This chronic muscle shortening can lead to discomfort, fatigue, reduced shock absorption, and increased injury risk. Research has shown that raising the heel by 13 cm shortens the gastrocnemius muscle by 5% while the Achilles tendon remains largely unaffected. Muscle shortening also displays significant regional variations, with extreme values of 22% in the central gastrocnemius. Over time, these changes can cause a gradual loss of sarcomeres in series, leading to osteoarthritis risk, knee cartilage deterioration, shortened calf muscles leading to pain, Achilles tendon shortening, and foot pain. It is important to understand the impact of high heels on the gastrocnemius muscle and other muscles to make informed decisions about footwear and prevent long-term health problems. 

Soleus muscle

The soleus muscle is the second major muscle in the calf that is affected by wearing high heels. This muscle is responsible for maintaining balance and stability when standing or walking. Wearing high heels forces the soleus muscle to work harder to balance the body on an unstable surface. Additionally, the shortened position of the foot in high heels causes the soleus muscle to contract, leading to chronic shortening and potential muscle imbalances. These imbalances can contribute to lower back pain, knee problems, and ankle injuries. Therefore, it is important to be aware of the impact of wearing high heels on the soleus muscle and to take steps to prevent muscle imbalances by incorporating exercises that strengthen the soleus and opposing muscles. Maintaining proper muscle balance and alignment can help prevent pain and injuries associated with high heel use. 


When we wear high heels, our quads are put to work due to the altered posture that comes with wearing elevated shoes. As we arch our backs and bend our knees, the quads work harder and put a lot of stress on the stabilizing tendons in the knees. This increased strain on the quads and tendons can lead to pain and injury over time. In fact, frequent high-heel wearing can cause tighter quads and make us more prone to knee problems like osteoarthritis. To alleviate some of the strain on the quads, it’s important to stretch them before and after wearing high heels. Additionally, building core muscles can help reduce the strain on other muscles, like the quads, and prevent pain and injury. Remember that moderation is key when it comes to wearing high heels, and it’s important to prioritize your health over fashion trends. 

Shin muscles

Shin muscles are an important part of our body, and they are particularly affected by wearing high heels. When we wear high heels, our body weight is shifted forward, which places extra pressure on the balls of our feet. This pressure can have negative effects on the shin muscles and cause inflammation of the front of the tibia, which can be very painful and is known as shin splints. Shin splints can be identified by a general pain running throughout the legs below the knees without an epicentre of pain. They are at their most painful when you lift your leg and ‘flex’ your foot. Shin splints are caused by the extra pressure and position changes that come with wearing high heels. To alleviate the pain caused by shin splints, it is best to avoid wearing high heels or to limit the amount of time you spend wearing them. Alternatively, you can wear shoes with a lower heel to reduce the amount of pressure on your feet and shins. 

Calf muscles

When it comes to wearing high heels, the impact on your calf muscles can’t be ignored. Heels put the calf muscle-tendon unit in a shortened position, making it work harder than usual. Although high heels don’t necessarily make your calves bigger, they can make your muscles more toned over time. However, the issue with high heels is that they compromise muscle efficiency in walking, leading to an increased risk of strain injuries. Additionally, wearing heels for extended periods can cause discomfort and stiffness in the calf muscles, which doesn’t allow your muscles to stretch properly. This can lead to Achilles tendon shortening and foot pain. It’s important to stretch out your feet periodically to ease tension and tightness. Standing on your tiptoes on a step balancing yourself on the handrail while raising all the way up and down until your heel hangs over the edge can help. Remember, it’s okay to wear heels but stretching and taking breaks are essential to avoid discomfort and strain injuries. 

Gluteus medius muscle

The gluteus medius muscle is one of the muscles that can be affected by wearing high heels. This muscle is located on the side of the hip and is responsible for stabilizing the pelvis during walking and other activities. When wearing high heels, the gluteus medius muscle is activated more than when wearing flat shoes. This increased activation can be beneficial for some individuals, as it strengthens the muscle and can improve balance and stability. However, for others, it can lead to pain and discomfort in the hip and lower back. It’s important to know which muscles are affected by wearing high heels so that you can properly train and stretch them, as well as make informed decisions about footwear choices. By taking care of your muscles, you can prevent injuries and long-term pain that can negatively impact your quality of life. 

Peroneus longus muscle

The Peroneus Longus muscle is an important muscle in the lower leg that helps to stabilize the ankle and foot. It is often strained or injured in individuals who wear high-heeled shoes, as these shoes put excess strain on this muscle and its tendons. Wearing high heels results in biomechanical changes in the way we walk, causing the Peroneus Longus to fire for a longer time than it normally would. This can lead to fatigue, tendinitis and pain in the muscle. It is important to protect this muscle from injury by doing proper exercises that strengthen and stretch it. If you experience pain or discomfort in this muscle, consult a healthcare professional or a physical therapist who can recommend appropriate exercises and treatments to help you recover. Remember, high-heeled shoes may look good, but they can also cause significant pain and injury, so it’s important to be aware of the impact of these shoes on our muscles and overall health. 

Rectus femoris muscle

The rectus femoris muscle is one of the four muscles that make up the quadriceps in the upper thigh. It is responsible for knee extension and thigh flexion, and it is the primary muscle that can flex the hip. You may use this muscle when you play soccer or enjoy dancing, as it allows you to make the necessary moves. However, overuse or sudden strain on this muscle can lead to pain in the groin area. To prevent this, it is essential to keep your rectus femoris muscle and all the quad muscles strong and flexible. You can do machine exercises like leg extensions and upright leg presses or bodyweight exercises like squats and lunges. By doing these exercises, you can help prevent any imbalance and injury of the rectus femoris muscle and preserve your range of motion. If you ever experience significant pain in the front of your thigh, make sure to seek help from a healthcare professional. 

Achilles tendon

The Achilles tendon is an important muscle-tendon unit that can be affected by the frequent use of high heels. Research has shown that wearing these shoes can lead to shortening and stiffness of the tendon, reducing the ankle’s active range of motion. This can result in foot and ankle pain, and may also increase the risk of osteoarthritis. Knowing which muscles are affected by high heels is important because it can help prevent these potential problems. If you want to wear high heels, it’s suggested to reduce the amount of time spent wearing them, choose shoes with a lower heel, and use soft insoles to cushion the feet. Additionally, foot strengthening exercises can help offset the negative effects of wearing high heels. By being aware of the effects of high heels on the Achilles tendon, you can make informed decisions about your footwear and ensure proper foot health.

III. Negative Effects of Wearing High Heels

Osteoarthritis risk

Wearing high heels can have several negative impacts on the body, including an increased risk of knee osteoarthritis. Due to genetic predisposition, women are already at high risk for developing this condition, and the additional stress placed on the joint capsule by heeled shoes can exacerbate this risk. Additionally, habitual wearing of heels can cause changes in shape to the Achilles tendon and calf muscles, which can lead to further discomfort and contribute to the development of osteoarthritis. It’s important to recognize these risks and take steps to mitigate them, such as choosing lower heels or alternating between heels and more comfortable shoes. Strengthening exercises for the affected muscle groups may also be helpful in reducing the risk of joint deterioration. By being mindful of these potential negative effects and taking proactive steps to address them, high heel wearers can continue to enjoy the style and confidence that these shoes provide, without sacrificing their health and well-being. 

Knee cartilage deterioration

Knee cartilage deterioration is a serious issue that can cause joint pain and immobility, affecting our quality of life. It is important to take preventive measures to keep this issue at bay, especially as we age. Factors like obesity, lack of physical exercise, and poor diet can contribute to cartilage deterioration. Therefore, maintaining a healthy lifestyle through regular exercise and a balanced diet can help protect our knees. Additionally, it is important to avoid wearing high heels for an extended period of time which can cause stress to our knee joints and further increase the risk of cartilage deterioration. Seeking medical attention when experiencing knee pain or mobility issues can help diagnose and treat any underlying issues early before they become more serious. So take care of your knees and live life to the fullest! 

Shortened calf muscles leading to pain

Shortened calf muscles can be a big problem for those who wear high heels frequently. When calf muscles are continuously held in a contracted position, as is the case with high heels, they can become shorter over time. This can lead to pain and discomfort in the calves, as well as in other parts of the body, such as the back and hips. The shortened muscles can also make it more difficult to walk and move around comfortably. To avoid this problem, it is important to take breaks from wearing high heels and to stretch the calves regularly. This can help to keep the muscles lengthened and prevent pain and discomfort. Additionally, wearing comfortable shoes with low heels or flats can be a good alternative to high heels, especially if you are planning to be on your feet for long periods of time. Taking care of your calf muscles can help you stay comfortable and healthy, no matter what shoes you choose to wear. 

Achilles tendon shortening and foot pain

Have you ever wondered why you experience foot pain after wearing high heels for a long time? Well, the answer lies in the Achilles tendon. Research has found that long-term wearing of high heels can increase the stiffness of the Achilles tendon, leading to a shortening of the tendon. This means that when you switch back to flat shoes or bare feet, the Achilles tendon is in an uncomfortable and unnatural position, causing foot pain. Additionally, the calf muscles, which are responsible for lifting the heel, can also become shortened from wearing high heels for extended periods. Therefore, it’s crucial to vary the height of your shoes and stretch your calf muscles regularly to prevent shortening of the Achilles tendon and calf muscles. If you experience foot pain or discomfort, seek the advice of a podiatrist to ensure proper foot care and prevent any long-term issues.