We all know high heels aren’t great for our feet or our backs, but the truth is, we still wear them. Fashion sometimes takes priority over function or maybe your career requires you to wear them. I was a professional Latin Ballroom dancer, and I not only walked, but also danced in high heels every day for hours! Needless to say, I had a lot more ailments besides sore feet. Bunions, nerve damage, arthritis, and tendonitis are just a few of the many problems wearing high heels can cause. When you wear heels, your weight is shifted forward onto the balls of your feet. There is a domino effect that occurs from your toes all the way up your legs, hips and back in order to compensate for the misalignment the heels create in your body. The higher the heel, the worse the damage. Whether you wear heels to the occasional party or every day for work, these 5 stretches will help undo the damage. (I am in the third trimester of my pregnancy and all of these stretches are great for reducing ankle and foot swelling, a common pregnancy symptom.)
1. Toe Stretch– Helps with bunions and creates space in between toes that tend to get squished together in heels. Sit on the floor and cross your left ankle over your right thigh. Lift your left leg up with your left arm supporting it. You may feel a stretch in your left outer hip area while doing this, which is an added bonus. To modify this without the hip stretch, sit on a chair and cross your left foot over your right thigh. Place the fingers on your right hand in between each toe on the left foot. Your palm should be against the sole of your foot with your thumb on the outside of your big toe. Gently pull the toes down to stretch the top of your foot several times and then do small circles in each direction, rotating from the ankle.
2. Foot and Ankle Stretch– Prevent shin splints and stretch the top of your feet. Kneel on the floor with the top of your feet over a rolled up towel. The towel should be right under the area where your toes meet your foot. Sit back onto your heels until you feel the stretch along the front of your feet. To get a deeper stretch, lean back with your hands on the ground behind you and gently lift one knee off the ground at a time. Hold each stretch for 30 seconds.
3. Downward Dog Calf Stretch– Get into a downward dog position. Adjust the distance between your hands and feet until you feel a stretch in your calves that works for you. Bend one knee as you press the opposite heel down into the ground with a straight leg. Press the ball of the foot that is flexed into ground to stretch the arch and ball of your foot. Hold for 2-3 seconds before switching legs. Continue to alternate legs for one minute.
4. Hamstring and Peroneal Stretch– Lie on your back, take a towel and hook it around one foot. Hold onto either end with your hands and draw your leg towards you with your hips square. Stretch the hamstring first. Then slowly pull your toes down towards you with the towel around the ball of your foot. Turn your foot slightly in and stretch the outside of your shin or peroneal muscle which gets tight with a lot of walking and can cause ankle instability. Hold each stretch for 30 seconds and then switch legs. (If you are pregnant, you’ll want to avoid lying flat on your back for too long, so keep the stretch short or do it seated with one leg extended straight and the other bent to the side like a figure 4.)
5. Hip Flexor Stretch– When you wear high heels, your hip flexors shorten and tighten. Regular lengthening of your hip flexors can relieve that. Lunge with your right leg forward and left knee on the ground. Place your hands on the top of your right thigh for balance as you place most of your weight on the front right foot. Keep your right knee directly over your right heel. Your left knee should be behind your left hip so that your thigh is at a diagonal. Stay upright as you sink into your hips, especially the left side. For a deeper stretch, take your left arm up and over your head as you carefully lean to the right to open up the left hip. Hold each side for 1 minute.
For all of you high heel lovers, try going with platforms or wedges that will distribute your weight more evenly. When nothing but a sexy stiletto will do, make sure to incorporate these 5 important stretches into your routine!
How often do you wear high heels?
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Video: Crystal Chin; Music: “Song For You” by Ryhe