I’ve recently been reading about the new high heel exercise craze. But before you channel your inner Carrie Bradshaw and break out the Manolo Blahniks or run to DSW for a new pair of pumps, you should know about the pros and cons of this kind of exercise, as well as how to get similar results on solid ground.
Channeling Your Inner Diva.
As a functional fitness personal trainer, instructor and enthusiast, I’m always looking for exercises that mimic the way we move about in daily lives. So I’m somewhat intrigued by this Barbie-inspired exercise class. My profession has already kept me in sneakers and I have an exercise shoe collection that a fit Imelda Marcos would envy. Yet, I understand why so many of my clients wear high heels. The extra height added by an inch or two of your shoe heel has a slimming effect, giving you a slimmer appearance with the change in body proportion. Heels help you hold a better posture. And they give quite a leg workout, or at least they appear that way. Heels make the muscles in your leg contract, giving you a more muscular appearance.
These Boots Were Made for Walking.
For many women, wearing high heels is an adulthood right of passage. Some girls make a transition from playing dress up, teetering in heels, to really dressing up, striding with confidence in grownup footwear. But do high heels really equal confidence? Psychological studies of how women feel in high-heeled shoes are contradictory. Some studies suggest that the added height of heels makes women feel, and act, more powerful, while others say that heels slow women down, making them unable to move as quickly with male counterparts, and objectifying them as sex objects.
Running In Heels
Psychology and tradition aside, if you are wearing a shoe that is the wrong size or a heel that is just higher than you’re accustomed, heels become more dangerous than fashionable. A wrong step in a high heel can lead to an ankle sprain or break. Ill-fitting pumps or too much time in heeled shoes can lead to bunions or hammertoes, since your balance shifts to the balls of your feet. If you are unable to walk comfortably in heels, you could compensate with bad posture, and even do damage to your back.
All About Balance
Some fitness centers are now offering BYOH (Bring Your Own Heels) classes. In addition to exercise, these classes are said to teach women how to walk more safely in heels, strengthening core and ankle strength. A workout in high heels introduces instability, so your core must remain engaged throughout the class. Yet instability introduces risk of fall or injury. And remember the cons of heels that I listed above? Those are only accentuated in this diva workout. Stiletto-clad instructors insist that with proper fitting shoes and a carefully choreographed routine that the workout is perfectly safe.
I’m not trading in my running shoes for pumps anytime soon, unless it is for a night out on the town. But I’m all for introducing some instability in a workout, like doing bicep curls while seated on a stability ball or doing, doing a push up with one hand elevated on a medicine ball. In order to maintain your balance, your core engages, giving you a constant workout of your abdominal muscles. A workout with instability requires your full participation. If you zone out, you might fall, so balance works both mental and physical fitness. Well-fitting footwear is not just a must for a well-heeled workout, but us sneaker-loving folks, too. Whether you plan to dance in Zumba or run in heels, pay attention to your shoes. You’ll have a better, safer workout with shoes that fit wheel, regardless of heel height.
If The Shoe Fits.
Stiletto or sneaker, a good fitting shoe is essential for safety and comfort. Akin to their high-heeled counterparts, an ill fitting or worn out running shoe can also do damage: from blisters to shin splints to even stress fractures. A rule of thumb for an avid runner is to replace running shoes every 300-400 miles, depending on the individual’s weight, size, stride and mileage. An expert opinion can help save you a trip to the podiatrist. Try a shoe store that specializes in running, like Bucks County Running on State Street in the Doylestown Borough. (Visit their website at www.buckscountyrunningcompany.com for their exact location and store hours.) They can help you find a pair of shoes based on your exercise style and habits that can help stop certain problems before they even start. Don’t think that having a professional fit for a sneaker or running shoe is only for professional runners. A good-fitting shoe is important at every fitness level.
Best Foot Forward
Different exercises can help strengthen your legs and feet for a stint in high heels. Pointing and flexing your toes, like you may do in yoga or Pilates, going up and down on your toes and rotating your ankles can help. Have you tried a high heel workout? I’d love to hear about your experience. Is it the ultimate functional fitness routine or an invitation to injury?