Women walk on high heels all the time, so why not work out on them as well? The usual suspects are present: Squats, sit-ups, stretches, pelvic lifts…and stilettos.
Fitness classes centered on elevated footwear are offered all across the country after Heel Hop and Stiletto Strength popularized them. People in favor of such workouts say they tone curves and focus on core strength, which helps women feel more stable and confident when wearing high heels in general.
Podiatrists have been warning for a long time that walking on high heels hurt your feet and body in many ways – from shortening the Achilles tendon in the ankle to pressuring the discs in the spine by because women have to push their hips forward for balance.
Then why does working out in them make sense? “There are solutions that are safe,” says Avital Zeisler a world-renowned hand-to-hand combat expert and creator of the Soteria Method that teaches women how to use traditionally feminine items like high-heels to defend themselves.
Zeisler, who was a victim of sexual assault, says she developed the self-defense training that includes high heels, after deciding she would not compromise her ladylikeness in order to be and feel safe. “I am going to embrace my femininity.”
If you wear heels that are the right height and learn how transfer the weight equally on both feet when walking, then you won’t wake up sore or with a twisted ankle. You can actually get more toned bottom and fitter thighs.
Doing squats and lunges while wearing stilettos makes you feel leg muscles you may have not known you even had because the exercises makes them work very hard – you have to keep your balance while stepping and kneeling back and forth. Doing lower body moves with the ankles lifted make the calf, hip and leg muscles – even the tiny ones – work much harder.
That's why squats are a favorite exercise. You have to lower your body even more than usual because of the added height from the heels. That works your calves and hips so hard, you may feel like they are burning.
Zeisler even has women run with stilettos but not all the time. Her method focuses on self-defense, which implies running from danger. “We start without the [stilettos],” she says. “Then when the women het comfortable, we introduce heels.” The point is to find a running speed with the shoe you have on.
Zeisler doesn’t recommend a heel higher than 3 inches. The beginning always includes short heels, which get higher with time and training. “When they approach 3 inches, then they start to get too high [for workouts]. It’s all about feeling comfortable.” As for the kind of stilettos you want to have for workouts, look for thick heels, Zeisler says. The shoes have to feel comfortable, provide support and be flexible where the arch of the foot is.