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CNN are reporting: High heels can shrink muscle, thicken tendons
A new study shows that regularly wearing high heels can cause muscle and tendon changes in your legs -- to the point where wearing flats or flip-flops can be painful.
Wearing two-inch heels (or higher) five or more days a week shrinks a woman's calf muscle fibers by 13 percent, on average. It also thickens her Achilles tendon -- which attaches the calf muscle to the heel -- by 22 percent, according to the study, which was published Thursday in the Journal of Experimental Biology.
These changes alter the resting position of the ankle, causing the foot to point down more than normal. For some habitual high-heel wearers, this can make switching from stilettos to flats a shock, says the lead author of the study, Robert Csapo, a doctoral candidate at the University of Vienna's Centre of Sport Sciences and University Sports, in Austria.
"Whenever women regularly wearing high heels stand or walk in flat shoes or barefoot, the calf muscles and tendons are placed at relatively longer length," says Csapo. "This stretches and increases the tension in the muscles and tendons, [causing] discomfort."
Wearing high heels (HH) places the calf muscle-tendon unit (MTU) in a shortened position. As muscles and tendons are highly malleable tissues, chronic use of HH might induce structural and functional changes in the calf MTU. To test this hypothesis, 11 women regularly wearing HH and a control group of 9 women were recruited. Gastrocnemius medialis (GM) fascicle length, pennation angle and physiological cross-sectional area (PCSA), the Achilles' tendon (AT) length, cross-sectional area (CSA) and mechanical properties, and the plantarflexion torque-angle and torque-velocity relationships were assessed in both groups. Shorter GM fascicle lengths were observed in the HH group (49.6+/-5.7 mm vs 56.0+/-7.7 mm), resulting in greater tendon-to-fascicle length ratios. Also, because of greater AT CSA, AT stiffness was higher in the HH group (136.2+/-26.5 N mm(-1) vs 111.3+/-20.2 N mm(-1)). However, no differences in the GM PCSA to AT CSA ratio, torque-angle and torque-velocity relationships were found. We conclude that long-term use of high-heeled shoes induces shortening of the GM muscle fascicles and increases AT stiffness, reducing the ankle's active range of motion. Functionally, these two phenomena seem to counteract each other since no significant differences in static or dynamic torques were observed.
Walking on High Heels Changes Muscle Activity and the Dynamics of Human Walking Significantly.
Simonsen EB, Svendsen MB, Norreslet A, Baldvinsson HK, Heilskov-Hansen T, Larsen PK, Alkjær T, Henriksen M. J Appl Biomech. 2011 Aug 26.
The aim of the study was to investigate the distribution of net joint moments in the lower extremities during walking on high-heeled shoes compared to bare-footed walking at identical speed. Fourteen female subjects walked at 4 km/h across three force platforms while they were filmed by five digital video-cameras operating at 50 frames/second. Both bare-footed walking and walking on high-heeled shoes (heel height: 9 cm) were recorded. Net joint moments were calculated by 3D inverse dynamics. EMG was recorded from eight leg muscles. The knee extensor moment peak in the first half of the stance phase was doubled when walking on high heels. The knee joint angle showed that high-heeled walking caused the subjects to flex the knee joint significantly more in the first half of the stance phase. In the frontal plane a significant increase was observed in the knee joint abductor moment and the hip joint abductor moment. Several EMG parameters increased significantly when walking on high-heels. The results indicate a large increase in bone-on-bone forces in the knee joint directly caused by the increased knee joint extensor moment during highheeled walking, which may explain the observed higher incidence of osteoarthritis in the knee joint in women as compared to men.
I won't be buying into any of the results from a doctoral candidate at the University of Vienna's Centre of Sport Sciences and University Sports, in Austria quite yet, thank you very much.
Slow news week at CNN
Of the other two cited studies - 11 subjects - 14 subjects?
In Walking on High Heels Changes Muscle Activity and the Dynamics of Human Walking Significantly I like this quote "The results indicate a large increase in bone-on-bone forces in the knee joint directly caused by the increased knee joint extensor moment during highheeled walking, which may explain the observed higher incidence of osteoarthritis in the knee joint in women as compared to men."
Which is very believeable. However I would have thought that normal increased ligamentous laxity during the last trimester of pregnancy, the extra weight associated with full-term pregnancy, and the increased Q-angle associated with the wider female pelvis may also have a bearing on the higher incidence of knee O/A in females.
Perhaps the authors mention this in the full text - but probably not.
I'm having trouble with the term "bone on bone forces" at the knee..... I could see saying "increased joint reaction forces" that could potentially lead to degenerative change in the menisci and hyaline cartilage...perhaps i'm bieng picky..but it is a doctoral candidate...