Mind & Body

High Heels and Low Stretches

TIMEOctober 1, 2015

HEELS: High heels can promote poor posture, deformed feet, and permanently tight calves and Achilles tendons, which often lead to pain in the soles of your feet. (Pascal Le Segretain/Getty Images)
HEELS: High heels can promote poor posture, deformed feet, and permanently tight calves and Achilles tendons, which often lead to pain in the soles of your feet. (Pascal Le Segretain/Getty Images)
As a personal trainer, I spend most of my time either barefoot or in sneakers. During this past week, however, I attended a cocktail party, went out to the theater and dinner with my family on Mother’s Day, and then attended a wedding the next day.

For each event, I wore high heels to complement my outfits. I became acutely more aware of how my clients who wear heels on a regular basis must feel. My hamstrings and calves felt very tight, and my feet ached and felt tighter than usual.

I understand why women wear high heels, and despite my knowledge of how bad they are for us, I also understand why they are fashionable and why one may not wish to give them up, despite tight legs, aching feet, and possible back pain.

In addition, high heels can promote poor posture, deformed feet, and permanently tight calves and Achilles tendons, which often lead to plantar fasciitis (pain in the soles of your feet).

However, all of the problems can be lessened with some regularly targeted stretches and strength-training exercises. If you choose to wear high heels, I recommend performing these exercises every day.

Static Calf Stretch

Face a wall or a counter top and step the right foot back. Keep the left foot flat on the floor with the knee slightly bent. Keep the right leg straight, and reach the right heel toward the floor.

The heel does not have to touch the floor if the calf is too tight; however, the right leg has to be reaching far enough back so the calf feels a stretch.

As you stretch your calf, remain aware of the rest of your body. Keep a nice posture as you lengthen your right heel toward the floor. Hold for 30 to 60 seconds and breathe slowly and deeply. Repeat on the other side.

After stretching the calf muscles, focus on the Achilles tendons. Bring your back foot forward a bit and bend the back knee while keeping your weight shifted forward. If you are in the correct position, you will feel your Achilles tendon stretching. Hold each stretch for 30 to 60 seconds and breathe slowly and deeply.

Dynamic Calf and Hamstring Stretch

Standing at the back of a long room or hallway, with your feet parallel to each other. Drop your chin to your chest, then soften your chest and keep rolling down through your spine until you are in a forward bend.

Take a few deep breaths, allowing the weight of your head to lengthen your spine and your hamstrings to open up a bit more.

Shift your body weight forward onto your hands and walk them out until you are in a plank or push-up position. Reach your hips toward the sky as you go into a downward-facing dog position.

Bend your right knee and step it forward about 3 or 4 inches. Then extend the right knee, reaching your heel toward the floor. Now step the left foot forward, about 3 to 4 inches in front of the right and extend it.

Walk your feet in toward your hands until your weight is back onto your legs, and roll up through your spine to standing. Repeat this eight or nine more times.

Cat-Cow Stretch

High heels can promote a tight lower back by tipping the body weight forward onto the toes. Mobilizing your back will feel very nice.

Kneel down onto your hands and knees. As you exhale, draw your navel in toward your spine and round your back into a camel like position. As you inhale, arch your back and look up toward the sky. Repeat this several times to open up your spine.

Although we may love how heels look, if we do not take the time to tend to our body’s needs, we will end up feeling stiff and sore. Take time each day to stretch, breathe deeply, and pay attention to your body and how it is feeling.

 

Tysan Lerner