London Healthy knees aren't the main consideration in choosing among high heels, but new research says chunky heels are just as bad for the knees as spindly stilettos.
Some women who want to add a bit of height and walk comfortably opt for wide heels. But comfort is the problem: Because they can be suffered for longer, such shoes are just as likely to cause knee arthritis, scientists report in The Lancet medical journal this week.
"It takes a long time to feel the effects of knee osteoarthritis and once you do, it's too late," said Dr. Casey Kerrigan, lead researcher of the study and associate professor at Harvard Medical School.
"I liken it to smoking one cigarette is not painful, but over a lifetime it is. Wide-heeled shoes feel comfortable, so women wear them all day long," Kerrigan said. "They are better for your feet than stiletto heels, but just as bad for your knees."
In the study, researchers had 20 women wear two pairs of shoes with three-inch heels, one with a narrow heel and the other with a thick one.
The scientists compared how much pressure was put on the women's knees by both types of shoes. The women also walked barefoot to provide a reading of normal pressure.
The scientists found that both types of shoe applied equal amounts of pressure to the knees.
Compared with walking barefoot, the heels increased pressure on the inside of the knee by 26 percent. Increased pressure on the knee eventually leads to arthritis, experts say.
The idea that high heels are bad for your health isn't new scientists have warned women for years that heels contribute to problems ranging from corns and calluses to tendinitis, knee pain, sprained ankles and back problems.