By Dr. Samuel P. Martin
Spurred on by photos of pint-sized fashion icons like Suri Cruise sporting shoes matching her mom’s style, little girls’ high heels have spiked in popularity over the last couple of years. According to estimates, it’s now a $4 billion industry and growing. Little girls want to dress just like their mothers and parents appear to be all too happy to let them. But does today’s fashion trend for little girls go too far?
Many parents and experts worry that this fashion trend has significant impacts just under the surface. Below are unintended physical consequences of high heels for little girls that may push this fashion trend from adorable to dangerous.
1 Muscle Development and Chronic Injury: Podiatrists warn that elevated heels can hurt muscle development in growing bodies, causing leg and back problems at an earlier age. Significant time spent in high heels can also cause plantar fasciitis, heel spurs and shortening of the Achilles tendon, which makes this tendon vulnerable to injury. High heels are also a source of Morton’s neuroma, a painful condition that affects the ball of your foot. While heels don’t cause bunions, they can exacerbate the condition due to the “forefoot pinch.” All these conditions are aggravated by weight and can lead toinner knee pain, hip pain and lower back pain.
2 Circulation Problems: Even adults can experience significant leg health problems after wearing high heels too often, so it reasons that children should not develop a fondness for these impractical shoes. Heels restrict the calf pump, which acts as the heart for your legs by pumping blood out of your lower extremities. High heels position your foot in a way that limits your ability to flex your calf, paralyzing this vital muscle movement.
3 Walking Mechanics: Even the mechanics of walking, which are developed during these early years, can be negatively impacted and create lifelong issues. According to a recent study of frequent heel wearers and rare heel wearers, those who wear heels at least 40 hours a week put more mechanical strain on their calf muscles, even when walking barefoot. Researchers found these changes in walking mechanics lead to shortened calf muscle fibers, increasing the risk of muscle strain. Beginning this trend of shortening calf muscles and changing the wearer’s gait before adulthood may cause even more dramatic physical consequences.
4 Injury Risks: With high heels, falls and other injuries are also a big possibility, particularly for young children who do not understand the balance and stability limitations of heels. Young kids are also very physically active and may engage in sports and other active games with this improper footwear. Without the experience or maturity of adults,children may not even realize when their heels put them in a dangerous position.
Girls who wear heels have said that they like feeling taller, but should we reinforce the idea that your appearance comes before comfort and function? If this trend continues to spread through playgrounds and elementary school hallways, young girls may feel active pressure to keep up with their fashion-forward classmates. Little girls have always wanted to look like their mothers. We need to decide as parents whether we’re going to let our daughters take it one step further by wearing shoes with so many potential dangers.