« on: 2010-08-05 15:57:06 »
I've hung up my heels a long time ago after my KISS phase, but just in case there some of you out there, here is the final word.
High heels leave permanent marks on legs—and not just blisters
Author: Economist Print
Date: Jul 15th 2010
MOST women (and some men) contend that high heels are perfectly comfy—once you get used to them. What inveterate wearers sometimes gripe about is the niggling pain felt when forced to walk with their feet flat. This observation prompted Marco Narici of Manchester Metropolitan University in Britain and his (all male) team to find out once and for all what, if anything, happens to legs persistently subjected to high-heeled treatment.
By pushing heels up, such shoes in effect shorten the calf muscles. Since other research has shown that holding a muscle in a shortened position for a long time can lead to permanent contraction, high heels could have a durable effect on aficionados’ anatomy. As Dr Narici and his colleagues report in the Journal of Experimental Biology, this is in fact what happens.
The team’s first step, as it were, was to find a suitable leg sample. To do this they placed an ad in a local newspaper inviting anyone who had regularly worn stilettos with heels of 5cm (2 inches) or more at least five times a week for a minimum of two years. Of the 80 volunteers who came forth Dr Narici picked 11 who complained of discomfort when walking flat-footed. He also recruited 9 heel-averse women as a control.
Dr Narici began by comparing the volume of calf muscles using magnetic-resonance imaging. Since forcing calves into a shortened position also reduces the load on them, he expected the heel-wearers’ muscles to be proportionally smaller. To his surprise, they weren’t. However, ultrasound revealed that the muscle fibres that make up the calves were indeed 13% shorter, on average, for the heel fans.
In principle, muscles with shorter fibres ought to exert less downward force, making those who have them less firm on their feet. But when Dr Narici strapped his heel-wearers’ ankles into a dynamometer, which can measure a foot’s turning force, the readings were indistinguishable from the control group’s. This indicated some compensatory mechanism must be in play.
The researchers’ attention then turned to the Achilles’ tendon, which connects the calf to the heel. They discovered that it was significantly thicker and stiffer for the heel-wearers. This rigidity makes up for the force lost due to shorter calves and also may explain the mysterious discomfort.
So, what are ailing Manolo lovers to do? Dr Narici recommends stretching exercises. The alternative is not to take the shoes off at all. Many Blahnik buffs could probably live with that.