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How significant is the link between high heels and varicose veins?

My co-worker told me that wearing high heels can cause varicose veins. I do not have varicose veins and I like wearing high heels a couple days a week to the office. What kind of link is thee between high heels and varicose veins?


Doctors Answers (7)

The link between wearing high-heeled shoes and developing venous congestion and varicose veins is well established and understood. Blood circulates outward from the heart under pressure through the arterial system, but the pressure drops as it flows outward through the body and into the smallest vessels and capillaries. From this point the blood enters the venous circulation which holds about 70 percent of your total blood volume, but has low pressure and is slow moving. There is not sufficient pressure for venous blood to flow upward against gravity from the legs back to the heart when standing at rest. That is why your legs feel heavy and eventually ache if you stand for long periods of time due to increasing venous congestion and pressure that expands the veins. The muscles in the feet and legs can compress the (deeper) veins and supply the additional pressure needed to lift the blood out of the legs and back towards the heart. There are also one-way valves located in the veins to keep the venous blood from dropping back downward when the muscle relaxes. So walking and movements assists normal venous return and prolonged standing contributes to the formation of varicose veins. With that background information, it is easier to understand how walking and standing in high heeled shoes causes continuous contraction of the calf muscles, effectively knocking-out the calf muscle pump which is largely responsible for lifting venous blood upward and returning blood to the heart. As the venous blood accumulates in the legs over long periods of time the veins eventually become stretched out and begin to fail, resulting in varicose veins. Wearing high heeled shoes daily will cause problems over time, while wearing them only for special occasions would be more prudent.

There is minimal correlation between heel height and varicose veins.

High heels do not cause varicose veins. Varicose veins are hereditary. They can also be caused by trauma and pregnancies.

There is no real link between wearing heels and varicose veins. When you wear flat shoes, you activate your calf muscle pump to empty the deep veins under the muscles. It is a more effective way of emptying those major veins. When you wear high heels, you are not using your calf muscles fully, because you are not flexing your ankle joint as much. Varicose veins do not form because of high heels. If someone has poorly functioning veins, or veins whose valves do not work, then there is a (very) small increase in the likelihood of getting varicose veins if you do not work your calf muscle pump to actively empty veins. When you sit at your desk, or when you are in a car or plane for a prolonged period, do some heel and toe flexion exercises, (about 10 heel and toe points every hour or so), and that will empty your veins actively.

High heels do not cause varicose veins. Wearing high heels limits ankle mobility impairing venous return which could aggravate the tendency of a patient for varicose veins, but one must first inherit this tendency. If you have no history of vein problems, do not worry about it.

Limit wearing the heels if possible. The calf muscle acts as a pump and is called the calf-muscle-pump. This works when you pull your toes toward your nose. This does not occur with heels on, instead the toes point downward.

Your friend is wrong, I am sorry to say. Varicose veins are inherited. Pregnancy, prolonged standing and other activities can aggravate the situation, but is not the cause. Enjoy your high heels.

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