High-heeled shoes are thought to characterise femininity and beauty, making the wearer feel self-assured and elegant.
But they also alter alignment of the feet, legs, and back, and can have long-term effects on posture and health.
Balance and posture
High-heeled shoes are less stable than flat shoes, and they make the whole body more unstable because they raise the height of the body's centre of mass.
They make it more difficult to maintain a symmetrical posture, and this may affect balance.
In order to stand upright and walk in high-heeled shoes, the ankle joint must be extended and this is the joint's least stable position.
Increased stress on muscles and joints
Every step we take sends a shock wave up through the feet and legs to the spine, and walking on the hard, narrow heel of a high-heeled shoe increases this force.
The unnatural position of the foot in high heels means it's less able to act as a shock absorber and the knees have to bend more to absorb the increased force. This increased stress on the knees, and overloading of the knee joints, increases the risk of joint degeneration and arthritis.
Women who love high-heeled shoes are unlikely to stop wearing them, even if they become aware of the problems they may cause.