High heels have been found to make women both stronger and weaker according to a new study published in The International Journal of Clinical Practice. The subjects, women studying to become flight attendants in South Korea, had heels as part of their classroom uniform, a decision made since the job they were training for would also require similar footwear. Scientists found that those enrolled in their second and third years of the program showed greater muscle strength in the area surrounding the ankle than the incoming freshmen. But oddly, the upward trend stopped abruptly when the women in their senior year of the program were examined.
Even though those were the women who had logged the most hours in their heels, they showed weakening of the same muscles that were becoming stronger in the sophomore and junior classmates. Senior, junior, and sophomore students were all found to have worse balance than the newbies.
The lead in the study, Hanseo University exercise physiology professor Jee Yong-Seok, explained that the ratio of strength between areas on the sides of the ankle to that in the front and the back was off in the heel-wearing women. Per The New York Times, that messes with stability and balance and leads to weakening of the same muscles that were initially becoming stronger due to the heels. In turn, ankle issues can cause injuries stemming from other muscle groups in the legs, including your hamstrings.
Happily for stiletto-lovers, the docs the Times chatted to didn’t suggest abandoning heels. Rather, they said to incorporate basic exercises like calf raises and heel drops (stand on the back edge of a stair and slowly let your heel lower dip down as far as it can). If you wear heels at the office, there’s also a benefit to be gained from slipping them off when you’re sitting at your desk since the position feet are put in while wearing a pair can affect the muscles, even when immobile.