High Heels and Your Spine

My last post was about pillows and how they can affect your spine.

Want to guess another thing that really does a number on your body?

High heels.

They look cute, but ever notice your back is super tight after a few hours of wearing heels? That’s because your whole body needs to compensate for the lift in the heel. The hips and pelvis tuck forward, so then the shoulders lean back (so you don’t fall forward) and then your upper back and neck round forward.  Your body does all of this just to stay standing. You don’t think about it consciously, and may not even look or feel like a dramatic shift in weight.  But over time this changes the way your muscles and joints respond to gravity. 

(Let me just add here that personally, I love high heels and think they look super cute. I probably wear them for a few hours at a time a few times a year. And then I always need a really good Pilates/gravity line workout to undo the achiness!!!) 

And it’s not just super high heels that have this effect. Even a small lifted heel can change the entire posture of the body, causing imbalance and misalignment all the way up to the neck and shoulders.

Being able to walk and/or stand with flat feet comfortably also allows the feet and legs to stretch, strengthen and align, and the pelvis to be in the proper position to support the body. It allows the spine to lengthen and therefore places the head and neck in alignment too. It’s how we were naturally designed to walk pain free.

This is why foot and ankle mobility and flexibility is important for the whole body.

I’ve noticed that most people who wear shoes with heels (even very low heels) have tightness in their calves, feet, low back and neck.   Sometimes so tight that their body feels off balance with bare feet. Their feet may even hurt.

People with tight calves often find a small heel to be more comfortable. In extreme cases, like when someone has plantar fasciitis, shoes with a small lifted heel can actually alleviate the pain in the sole of the foot.

This is because it supports the tight feet and leg muscles in their shortened position.  It’s a short term quick fix to alleviate pain, but it is NOT addressing the cause of the pain.

If you really want to get to the root cause and improve the gravity line of the body, you need to stretch and strengthen the muscles of the feet and lower legs regularly. Going barefoot (even for a few minutes a day, where/when safe and appropriate) helps to  normalize the muscles of the feet and legs as well.


Even though the pillow or high heeled shoes may have been the root cause of the tightness, just taking them away too quickly could cause more harm than good, especially for long time heel wearers. The good news is we can safely undo all that tightness with the right exercises and habits.

Slowly reducing the height of the heel along with regular gravity line and foot exercise seems to be the most body friendly way to approach better alignment.

I know it sounds contradictory.

But ironically, we end up needing the very thing that causes the pain and imbalance, to relieve the pain and imbalance.

In other words:

Once the imbalance is there, we need to consistently and gradually work the body back to normal. 

It takes time, awareness and regular work to see results. The goal is not to just be able to walk with flat shoes or barefoot, but to have the freedom and alignment that comes with having less tension and compression in the body.

Be gentle and patient with yourself when you are making lasting changes in your body 🙂 It’s worth it!

Be well,


I am switching my weekly class to  Fridays at 12:15 pm EST starting 9/9.  Come and learn how to improve your gravity line and stretch your feet and legs!   Drop in for one class or Subscribe to have access to the class library! Click here to join the live class! 

Click here to see more about my Basic Pilates and ELDOA bundle.

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Hi, I’m Danielle O’Connell

Pilates Teacher, ELDOA Trainer and Health Coach.

I’m here to help integrate body, mind and soul through Pilates practice while helping instructors & students get better results in their daily practice. 

I truly believe that healthy movement is an important part of both physical and mental wellness, and that Pilates and ELDOA work amazingly well to help you achieve freedom in your body and a sense of wellbeing.

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