As the stereotype goes, women love shoes. And thanks to celebrities, fashion magazines, and TV shows–ahem, Sex and the City anyone?–flats, booties, and sandals are one thing, but high-heeled love is higher than any stiletto can match. Even with the knowledge that high heels can be bad for both a woman’s feet and her body, ladies are still willing to put on the pumps no matter how painful. So goes the saying, “It hurts to be beautiful.”
It’s not entirely hard to understand why women stick with walking on sticks. After all, stilettos do amazing things for a girl’s stems–no matter their shape or size. And it turns out there is also a mental benefit, too. Wearing heels leads to a more feminine walk–shorter steps and a sway to the hip. This walk, be it subconscious or not, helps women feel more feminine and possibly sexier, upping her confidence level, as suggested in a study published in the journal Evolution & Human Behavior.
The benefits of wearing high heels may never outweigh the body damage done by sky high shoes. Still there are some exercises that can strengthen your stems to better handle heels with height while at the same time sculpting legs that won’t quit–no matter what shoes you wear.
[adrotate banner=”26″]Calf Stretch and Strengthen: Propping up your heel on a platform while you walk can cause pain in your Achilles tendon as well as in your calves. The muscles can get shortened, so stretching and strengthening is needed to alleviate the discomfort. Standing in sneakers with the ball of your foot on the edge of a step, sink your heels toward the floor, which will both stretch and lengthen the muscles. To strengthen, raise your heels as high as you can so that you are standing on your tip-toes on the stair. Contract your calf in this position for one to two seconds before lowering back to the stretch position. Repeat this exercise for three sets of 12 reps. If this becomes too easy, do one leg at a time, or add resistance, such as a dumbbell in one hand or by wearing a weighted vest.
Better Your Balance: Walking in heels is all about balance; if you’re even slightly off, get ready to roll, and possibly sprain, your ankle. Balance comes not only from having strong legs but also strong supporting muscles to keep you upright. Yoga poses are perfect for building better balance. Try a sequence of standing balance postures, such as a tree pose where the sole of one foot is resting against the inner ankle, calf, or thigh (never the knee) of the opposite leg, which is standing strong. Keep hips tucked beneath you and a straight spine. Hold this posture for a 15-second count before switching to the opposite leg.
Squat for Strength: Squats work a large portion of the body, and have amazing benefits for your lower half. While your legs will get the workout they need to handle high heels, your hips are also helped. Your hips are literally the center of your body, making them central to many full-body exercises. When you lift, sit, stand up, or jump, the power comes from your hips. When walking in heels, hips are crucial, but can tend to get out of alignment, which can lead to pain and or even injury throughout your entire body. Focusing on proper alignment of your hips while doing 5 sets of 12 body-weight squats will help to keep them in line when strutting your stuff in stilettos.
Exercises to Add to Leg Day
Tree Pose: 3 sets of 15-second tree pose, per leg
Calf Raises: 3 sets of 12 reps
Body-weight Squats: 5 sets of 12 reps.
A strong body has many health benefits, and when it comes to high heels, it proves having a leg up in the style world can be added to the list.
What are your favorite kind of shoes to wear? Tell us in the comments!