The Hazards of High Heels

The Hazards of High Heels

Stevie Winwood may have thought the “Low Spark of High Heeled Boys” was, in 1971 slang, “groovy.” But the low moan of high-heeled girls rockin’ emergency rooms across North America isn’t so melodic. According to a study from the University of Alabama Department of Public Health, from 2002 to 2012 the number of reported high-heel injuries doubled. High heel tip-overs caused 123,300 emergency department visits, including 19,000 in 2011. Over 80% of those injuries were to the ankle or foot; around 20% involved the knee, torso, head or neck.

Most of the time the person limped away with a strain or sprain, but 19% of the time bone fractures occurred. That doesn’t include the chronic discomfort, pain and sometimes long-term damage to joints, bones and soft tissue that happens to around 50% of well-heeled women. And the most surprising fact is that half of the injured don’t make it out their front door; they’re injured at home! Gals 20 to 29 are most likely to fall off their pedestals; those 30-39 are the second most frequent fallers.

You’d think this would make fashionistas consider alternatives, but the opposite’s true. Organizers of the chic Cannes Film Festival try to insist all women walking the red carpet wear high heels (this year film producer Valerie Richter says she was initially turned away because she was wearing flats!). Maybe the festival should be renamed "Can’t" and women should just say “Au revoir.”

Medically reviewed in January 2020.

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