Many styles of dance involve the usage of heels. Ballroom dancing shoes are designed for usage based on the style of dance being performed. International Standard Ballroom shoes for women are closed toed shoes with a 2 to 2.5 inch sturdy heel because steps are performed using the heel of the foot. International Latin and American Rhythm shoes are open toed, strapped heels that are an average of 2.5 to 3 inches in height. These shoes have the least sturdiest heel because International Latin and American Rhythm styles are performed on the ball of the foot. Additionally, this style of shoe is designed with a flexible sole to allow for pointed feet. Lastly, American Smooth shoes are closed toed, flexible soled shoes that range in heel height from 2 to 2.5 inches. An additional non-traditional ballroom dance that uses heels is the Argentine Tango. While dancing the Argentine Tango, women often wear pointed heels ranging in 2 to 4 inches in height. The higher the heel height, the more advanced in technique and ability a dancer is. The heels are used to change the overall stance of the woman by tilting the hips forward, making the stomach flatter and pushing the backside out. Additionally, the heels cause unsteadiness which forces women to dance on their toes and lean on their partner which adds to the fluidity of the movements. A relatively modern style of dance called Heels Choreography or Stiletto dance specializes in choreography that blends the styles of jazz, hip-hop and burlesque with the fusion of vogue movements and is performed using stilettos or high heels. Some dancers such as Yanis Marshall specialize in dancing with high-heels.
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In a 2016 study from the Sahmyook University in Korea, researchers wanted to investigate the effects of high heels on the activation of muscles in the cervical and lumbar portions of the spine which refers to the neck and lower back. Thirteen women were recruited to walk down a walkway in three different testing conditions: barefoot, in 4 cm heels and in 10 cm heels. Surface electrodes were placed on the muscle mass of the women’s spines as well as their feet to measure the electrical activity of muscles at different points of movement. The results of the study indicated an increase in both cervical and lumbar muscle activation as heel height increased. The cervical spine, the neck, assists in maintaining head stability and postural control in the body. The usage of high heels shifts the body’s center of mass which forces the spine to adjust itself in order to maintain balance. The researchers mentioned that over time these results would increase local muscle fatigue that could lead to muscle swelling, decreased muscle movement and even tissue deformation.
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Researchers have also found that because women tend to have wider hips than men, our feet are more likely to strike the ground toward the outside of our shoe soles. The inward rolling of the foot that results from this is known as pronation, which explains why more women are believed to overpronate than men. Some women’s running shoes account for this increased tendency with different materials used for support through the sole.