Another blog about shoes and how some features of a conventional shoe do your feet no good. This one is heels…
Heel wearing was introduced in France in 1673 by King Louis XIV for gentlemen of court to wear to show their nobility. The reasons for heel-wearing then and since then have only been for reasons of style or social-standing. There has never been a benefit to the body for having a heel in the shoe.
Now the biomechanics of heeled shoes and the problem it makes in the rest of the body is understood. The fashion is so ingrained after 300 years it’s quite difficult to shift out of heel wearing being the norm.
How a raised heel changes the Achilles tendon and the plantar fascia
There are quite a few problems with having a raised heel but one of them is what the heel does to shorten the muscles on the sole of the foot, over the heel and up the calf.
The Achilles (calcaneal) tendon attaches the calf muscles to the heel. But it doesn’t just stop dead there. The Achilles tendon attaches (fascially) over the heel to the plantar fascia.
If the calf muscles that attach to the Achilles tendon are tight, the ankle becomes less flexible, and the plantar fascia also tightens.
When you stretch your calcaneal tendon you stretch your plantar fascia as well. Look at this picture of a skeleton foot and see how the plantar fascia under the sole of the foot is loose when the ankle is plantarflexed (top of foot away from the front of the calf). Then see how it tightens when the ankle dorsiflexes (top of foot towards the front of the calf)?
Everything in the body is connected.
Thanks to wearing heels under the backs of our feet, most people’s calves are kept pretty short and so get pretty tight. This is one of the reasons why so many people suffer from plantar fasciitis (inflammation of the plantar fascia).
Lengthen your short calf muscles and tight Achilles tendon and stretch the plantar fascia
A calf stretch like the one pictured will help lengthen the plantar fascia, Achilles tendon and calf muscles. Use a rolled towel to lift the front of the feet. Lift your heels high off the floor and then slowly lower them down until your heels touch the floor.