Several months ago a featured segment on a National Morning News broadcast, addressed the issue of girls from as young as 3 years old wearing high heels. It was mentioned in the segment that these young girls are still undergoing developmental changes, and wearing heels could have implications on proper growth. That is in fact true! The last bones in the foot to solidify, changing over from cartilaginous material to solid bone can take place up to the age of 18 years. Wearing heels at such a young age could have serious implications on growth!
The mechanics of heels are many. They can:
1. Increase pressures on the ball of the foot
2. Increase ankle instability leading to injury
3. Tighten the heel cord creating changes in gait including “toe walking”
4. Induce changes on growth plates, which don’t close until late in the teen years, causing developmental complications.
5. Predispose an already destined foot type toward the development of bunion and hammertoe deformities.
Aside from injury to your child’s foot, which should be avoided at all costs, tightening of the heel cord most certainly creates changes in gait including “toe walking.” However, that’s not the only problem that a tight heel cord can induce. If you remember, throughout several previous blogs, including the ones on plantar fasciitis and retrocalcaneal exostosis (“pump bump”), tightening of the musculature in the back of the leg, which is essentially the heel cord, can contribute to multiple foot issues and pain both in the back of the foot and on the plantar surfaces of the foot.
We’ve talked about the mechanics of bunion deformities before and that your foot-type predisposes you to the development of bunions and in fact, hammertoes, all of which proper and supportive shoe gear can help to prevent or slow the progression of. If your child wears heels from the age of 3 and has a foot type that pre-disposes them to bunion and hammertoe deformities, they will more than likely develop these deformities much sooner in life, with correction necessary in their early teen years.
Although heels may look “cute,” there are plenty of flat shoes out there these days that are also cute! Kids love sparkly and ‘jazzy’ things, so why not find some sneakers or ballet flats that fall into that category? It simply isn’t worth the risk of injury, developmental complications, or the formation of bunions and hammertoes to wear high heels for the fun of it.
In the event that your child wants to wear heels for special events, that’s okay. It is, however, recommended that you limit wear to 4 hours or less and choose heels with a wider toe box and a more stable heel. This will help prevent crushing of the toes as well as help decrease the instability typically associated with a ‘skinnier’ high heel.