ithout heels, each and every one of us walk in a different way. We compensate, accommodate and add variation, to the gait analysis that we find described in books! Our gait pattern is an extremely complex, whole-body coordination system that is completely unique to us. I find it very entertaining to watch people walk. From the bus, sitting at a bar, walking in the streets of Manhattan…. Everywhere is a “pop up show” and you will notice incredible things! Sometimes, I ask myself how certain people can actually stand and walk!


Beside our personal style, we can find a main difference between the walk with flat shoes and the walk with heeled shoes. Think about the supermodels on the runway! Of course they have perfected that walk so everything looks smooth, natural and healthy when they walk down the runway.


The biomechanics of the walk on high heels requires a short bouncy stride, toes pointed to the ground, and hips thrust forward. This happens because the center of gravity is shifted forward and the body compensates to maintain the balance. The changes in the heeled walk are due to the extra inches under the heels.


The stance:

When we normally stand barefoot, our bodies create a 90 degree angle with the ground. Our bodies are not a still greek column, but an adaptable structure that follows the tensegrity model. When wearing high heels, instead of leaning forward (like a column would do) we compensate with major changes going up the body: the back is arched, the pelvis and chest are thrust forward, the buttocks stick out, and the calf muscles tighten.


As the heel height increases, the location of the center of gravity is more elevated and the stability decreases. That’s why, women wearing high heels have the only choice of controlling their stability by changing their stance and body position. The sway is increased, the chest is pushed forward and the buttox posteriorly. Beside the loss in stability, the body weight shifts forward, so that the center of pressure moves toward the ball of the foot. On a high heel, 90% of the weight is focused on the ball of the foot.


Image: copyright Restorative Exercise, Inc.


During the walk:

This shifting forward of the gravity line means that the contact phase will be felt mostly by the ball, and the push-off phase will be performed almost entirely from the ball. If we compare the walk on high heels to the gait analysis with flat foot  we can see this:

  • No smooth transition
  • No distribution on the whole foot to share the weight of the impact of the full body with the ground
  • No possibility to decelerate, store the energy and accelerate during push off


All those good actions and phases that make our walk physiological and smooth when we are barefoot, are almost completely lost when we wear high heels.


This transforms the smooth step sequence into a more “jerky” stride. This creates a faster gait pattern: That’s what happens at each and every step we take.


This transforms the smooth step sequence into a more “jerky” stride. This creates a faster gait pattern: walking is essentially the action of leaning forward, losing the balance (falling) and catching that balance again. That’s what happens at each and every step we take. Because of the shift of the center of gravity, this happens a lot faster when wearing high heels.


After this eye opening analysis of how much our gait pattern changes when wearing high heels, you can already pretty instinctively pinpoint some areas of the body that will immensely thank you and benefit from a specific workout

  • Strength, stretch and coordination of the intrinsics muscles of the foot
  • Lower abs strength
  • Gluteal complex strength
  • Muscles of the legs strength
  • Stretch of the posterior chain of muscles of the leg as well as the bottom of the foot


By the way did you know that when walking in four inch heels, the force on our poor heel is equivalent to the force felt when running?


High Heel Rescue will not only help your feet gain a better shape and level of health, but will also suggest how to find that relief in other parts of the body affected by the heeled shoes. You will increase the level of health and well being of your whole body!


Click here to read the blog on “Do you know how you walk?” and compare the barefoot walk with the high heel walk.