High heels 'may lead to knee osteoarthritis'

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Women who regularly wear high heels may increase their risk of osteoarthritis of the knee, experts have warned.

Scientists at Iowa State University have shown that prolonged wearing of high-heeled shoes can contribute to joint degeneration.

Danielle Barkema, a kinesiology master's student at the university, recruited 15 women and asked them to complete walking tests in three different heel heights - flat, 2in and 3.5in. The researcher measured the forces acting upon the women's knee joints, as well as the heelstrike-induced shock wave that travels up the body when walking. She showed that wearing high-heeled shoes leads to slower walking speeds and shorter stride lengths.

Furthermore, the research revealed that as a woman's heels get higher, there is an increase in the compression on the inner side of the knee. "This means that prolonged wearing and walking in heels could, over time, contribute to joint degeneration and knee osteoarthritis," Ms Barkema concluded.

"Based on this information, wearing high heels puts individuals at greater risk for developing osteoarthritis. And it seems to be that the higher the heel height, the greater the risk."

The research is due to be presented at the annual meeting of the American Society of Biomechanics later this month. Previous research has also implicated high heels as a probable risk factor for osteoarthritis of the knee.

According to Arthritis Ireland, although higher heels can benefit confidence and give the appearance of leaner, longer legs, they can have long term consequences for joints. They suggest reducing the time spent in higher heels, opting for flats or trainers for long periods of standing or walking.

For more information, call Arthritis Ireland on 1890 252 846.

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