How Young Is Too Young For High Heels?

08/06/2011 01:39 am ET | Updated Oct 05, 2011

French Vogue recently illustrated a 10-year-old model, Thylane Loubry Blondeau, in a high fashion photo shoot wearing makeup and skyscraper high heels. This has gained media attention and debate over the appropriate age for young girls to be portrayed in such a manner.

But how young is too young for a girl to wear high heels?

High heels are considered to be a poor foot health choice by most health care professionals, as they may lead to bunions, hammer toes and general foot pain. However, it is important to note that these conditions do not happen over night and are thought to be the result of long-standing high heel use.

From a medical point of view, there is a specific concern with young girls wearing high heels and pointy-toed shoes because their bones are more malleable and can be structurally deformed as they grow. Simply put, bone growth occurs from a cartilaginous precursor that becomes calcified and hardened. The softer growing bone can be deformed and misshapen by external forces (such as high heels). This is the physiology behind the Chinese foot binding.

Until young girls stop growing, there is a significant risk to cause bone and joint deformations within the foot. Sure heel height, duration of time spent in the heel and frequency of wear are all contributing factors to developing high-heel associated foot problems -- but the risks are clear.

From a purely bone-related standpoint, females reach skeletally maturity around age 14. This does not mean that this the proper age for one to begin wearing high heels, nor am I indicating that high heel wearing is safe at all for young girls and adolescents. But parents should strongly consider avoiding shoe gear that can have a life-long impact on the foot prior to maturity of the foot. And remember, even after skeletal maturity, the risk of developing foot problems still exists.

What do you think?

~ Dr. Neal M. Blitz

To learn more about Dr. Blitz, please visit