High-heeled shoes, also known as high heels, are a type of shoe with an angled sole. The heel in such shoes is raised above the ball of the foot. High heels cause the legs to appear longer, make the wearer appear taller, and accentuate the calf muscle.
There are many types of heels in varying colors, materials, styles, and heights. High heels have been used in various ways to communicate nationality, professional affiliation, gender, and social status. High heels have been an important statement piece of fashion throughout history in the West. In early 17th-century Europe, high heels were a sign of masculinity and high social status. It wasn't until the end of the century that this trend spread to women's fashion. By the 18th century, high-heeled shoes had split along gender lines. By this time, heels for men were chunky squares attached to riding boots or tall formal dress boots, while women's high heels were narrow and pointy and often attached to slipper-like dress shoes (similar to modern heels). By the 20th century, high heels with a slim profile represented femininity; however, a thick high heel on a boot or clog was still acceptable for men. Until the 1950s, shoe heels were typically made of wood, but in recent years they have been made of a variety of materials including leather, suede, and plastic.
Wearing high heels is associated with greater risk of falls, musculoskeletal pain, the development of foot deformities and varicose veins.
Knee osteoarthritis appears to be twice as common in women as in men, although pressure on the knees is the same when men and women walk barefoot. Wide-heeled shoes increase the inward twisting force on the knee by 26% compared with 22% for narrow-heeled shoes. This force in turn increased compression on the insides of the knee joints.