What Happens to Your Feet at Every Heel Height

You know the painful feeling—stepping out in heels only to wishing you could take them off as fast as you put them on. But why are you experiencing such discomfort? Especially if you opted for a lower, one-inch heel, rather than a six-inch? Well, we tapped ProFoot podiatrist Dr. Jackie Sutera to spill on the real reason your heels hurt—and what actually happens to your feet at every heel height. According to Dr. Sutera and The American Podiatric Medical Association, the real damage starts to happen when wearing heels two inches and higher, but you can start to see and feel differences as soon as your feet lift off the ground.

“Every woman has a different body type and arch height, and each woman’s height and stance can uniquely affect how her feet react to heels. The damage one woman experiences at six inches might be the same damage another feels at one inch,” Dr. Sutera explained. But you do increase pressure the higher the heel. “High heels shift weight to the ball of the foot, so the higher the heel, the more pressure,” Dr. Sutera said. “Knee joint pressure can also increase by up to 26% when a woman wears heels.”

So how much pressure are you adding to your feet at various heel heights? Keep scrolling to scope our diagram that highlights the percentage of pressure at one inch, two inches, and three inches. Plus, go a bit further to shop a few of our favorite heels of the moment that may be more bearable with a few pain-relief tips.

What heel height do you like to wear? Let us know in the comments below.

Opening Photo: Sandra Semburg