Barefoot dancing spreads the pressure between the heels and toes. (
CREDIT: International Journal of Experimental and Computational Biomechanics)
Wearing high heels while getting your cha-cha-cha on may mean extra pain for your feet, a new study suggests.
Walking in high heels has long been a concern of health-care providers, because the fanciful footwear causes an uneven distribution of pressure on the feet. The new study is the first to examine the effects ballroom dancing while wearing high heels has on the feet, according to the researchers.
Wearing high heels while dancing is a common practice among professional and amateur ballroom and Latin dancers.
Researchers measured the amount of pressure over the bottom surface of the feet of six professional Latin dancers as they danced barefoot, and then wearing heels of three heights: 1.7 inches (4.5 centimeters), 3 inches (7.5 cm) and 4 inches (10 cm).
The results were translated into images showing areas on the foot where the greatest pressure points were with each shoe. [Images: Pressure points revealed. ]
They found that dancing while wearing high heels – no matter the height – threw a disproportionate amount of pressure forward onto the toes. Dancing in 4-inch (10-cm) heels tripled the amount of pressure on the toes, according to the study.
Dancing barefoot, on the other hand, provided equal distribution of pressure between the heel and the toe, said the researchers from Liverpool John Moores University in England and the Human Movement Research Center in China.
Dancing in high heels means a greater shift in pressure from the heel to the front of the foot. That change in distribution of pressure can lead to plantar fasciitis, an irritation and swelling of the bottom part of the foot that leads to shooting pain in the heel, the researchers said. They advised high-heel wearers to wear shoes that provide adequate cushioning support to avoid this condition.
Next, scientists hope to find a way to improve the design of dance shoes to reduce the adverse effects of wearing them.
The study was published today (Sept. 16) in the International Journal of Experimental and Computational Biomechanics.