Anyone who’s spent any amount of time commuting in the Czech capital is familiar with the sight of high heels tottering across cobblestones — or may have even experienced this painful phenomenon firsthand.
Now a new medical study from the Rehabilitation Medicine Department of the First Faculty of Medicine and General University Hospital in Prague in cooperation with a team from Turkish Hacettepe University in Ankara is encouraging women to to step into more sensible daily footwear in the name of protecting their musculoskeletal health.
The study, the first of its kind, performed ultrasounds on 88 healthy women aged 20 to 45 years, who wore shoes with heel higher than 5 cm or lower than 1.4 cm for at least 5 consecutive hours at least 5 days a week.
“It has long been known that high heels are not entirely good for the locomotive apparatus, but it is different to have specific data for these beliefs,” said Yvona Anger, Head of the Rehabilitation Medicine Department of the First Faculty of Medicine and General University Hospital in Prague.
Researchers studied the knee cartilage, the Achilles tendon, and the foot soles of women who wore high-heeled shoes over a long period of time. Their data was compared with a control group of women regularly wearing mostly low or no-heeled shoes.
A pattern emerged showing that the long-term wearing of high heels can have a degenerative effect on the Achilles tendon while leading to early onset arthritis in the knee cartilage, even in younger women.
The results of the study were recently published in the PM&R Journal, the official journal of the American Academy of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation.
A number of offices and professions still require women to wear heels in the workplace although that is changing following a 2016 uproar in which a British receptionist at the firm PwC was sent home for not wearing heels.
A growing number of regions and countries have banned the mandating of high heels in the workplace, including the Alberta region of Canada and the Philippines; a wide-scale campaign against heels in the company dress code as discriminatory is currently being waged in Japan. Such a legislative ban was recently struck down in Great Britain.
In the Czech Republic, it’s not unusual for women to don heels for work but wear slippers beneath the desk. See our article on dress code and other Czech work quirks here.