Do High Heels cause Arthritis? New Study Says No…

high heels cause arthritis

Can high heels cause arthritis in your knee? Several years ago there was a big dust up in the press about a new study that showed that high heels caused arthritis. Now a new entry in that research shows the opposite-high heels may protect against knee arthritis. Girls, get your heels back out while I go through this controversy!

The concept that high heels could cause arthritis was based on the idea that having the foot flexed in that position would lead to excessive wear and tear on either the ankle or the knee. A 2010 study did show a correlation between high heels and big toe arthritis, which made some sense given that women’s toes are usually forced into a narrow shoe and high heels only add more pressure. Studies have since shown that walking in high heels does change the bio mechanics of walking and muscle activation.  An older 2005 study showed that even moderate heels added the kind of knee forces thought to be associated with knee arthritis.

In the current study, and in some of the above, the data comes from a large registry designed to see if there are genetic associations with arthritis (the GOAL study). The authors followed about a thousand women and half of them responded to the questionnaire about what types of shoes they wore. Not only didn’t these researchers not find an association between knee arthritis and high heels, their data went the other way! Meaning women who wore high heels had less knee arthritis!

The upshot? Does this mean you can go back to heels if you have knee issues? The researchers cautioned that they couldn’t figure out if the data was the result of some women switching out of heels later in life because they had knee pain. However, it seems clear that there isn’t much convincing data at this point that wearing high heels causes knee arthritis, so have fun with those Jimmy Choo pumps girls!

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Chris Centeno, MD is a specialist in regenerative medicine and the new field of Interventional Orthopedics. Centeno pioneered orthopedic stem cell procedures in 2005 and is responsible for a large amount of the published research on stem cell use for orthopedic applications. View Profile

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