What Effects Do “Barbie Feet” Have On Our Lower Body?
The foot shape of Barbie is well-known to bend behind the toes and lift up at the heel. While it is not anatomically accurate to have feet shaped like this, it can be compared to a foot condition known as toe walking. This foot condition is most common in toddlers. The cause for walking on the ball of the foot has been attributed to a short Achilles tendon, muscular dystrophy, cerebral palsy, or autism. If there is not an underlying cause for the toe walking, it is often referred to as Idiopathic toe walking.
For this article, we are excluding the above reasons for Barbie’s foot shape and exploring what some actual effects of walking like the iconic doll may have on your lower body.
Effects of “Barbie Feet”
The normal walking pattern (gait cycle) for our feet is for the heel to strike the ground then roll forward to the ball of the foot and push off from the toes to the swing phase then start the cycle over again. With Barbie feet, walking on the balls of our feet is anatomically incorrect and can have some adverse effects on our feet and lower body when walking in this position.
While the foot shape of Barbie may work for a doll, it is not realistic for humans. However, let’s take a look at what issues could occur from walking with “Barbie Feet”.
- Calf Muscle Strain - Walking on the balls of your feet puts increased stress on your calf muscles. Over time, this can lead to strengthening and development of the calf muscles, but it may also cause tightness and discomfort. With cramps in the calf muscle, walking can become very difficult and painful.
- Achilles Tendon Tension - The Achilles tendon, which connects the calf muscles to the heel bone, may also experience increased tension when walking on the ball of the foot. Regular forefoot walking could increase the risk of strains or tendinitis. With a strained Achilles tendon, it would be very difficult to walk and put weight on your heel.
- Plantar Fasciitis - Walking on the balls of your feet will add unnecessary weight to the plantar fascia. The plantar fascia is the band of tissue that connects the heel to base of toes. With the added strain to the tendon and muscles at the arch, it can lead to foot discomfort from plantar fasciitis. This foot condition is inflammation of the plantar fascia and can cause pain in the heel area.
- Metatarsalgia – The ball of your foot is not intended to have weight-bearing, repetitive strikes to the ground like the heel. This constant impact on the balls of your feet can cause discomfort on the metatarsal heads (the area behind your toes) and can lead to a foot condition called Metatarsalgia.
- Balance and Stability – There is an increased chance for ankle sprains or falling since walking on your feet prevents our body’s weight from being distributed evenly across the foot. Putting all your weight on the ball of your feet can create an imbalance and causing you to easily lose your footing or twist an ankle.
- Caloric Expenditure - Walking on the balls of your feet can increase caloric expenditure compared to regular heel-to-toe walking, as it requires more muscular effort. Short periods of toe walking can be a beneficial exercise to strengthen calf muscles. However, long-term use of these muscles is not recommended.
- Gait Changes - Forefoot walking alters your natural gait pattern, which may lead to increased stress on certain areas of the foot and lower leg, potentially causing overuse injuries.
- Lower Back Pain – Our lower body biomechanics works as a system from the lower back to the feet. The natural design of our lower body is to cushion and support us as we move. Forefoot walking disrupts this system and puts pressure on joints and muscles in the lower body that are not intended to have excessive pressure. In the long term, this type of foot position could cause pain in the lower back and our lower extremities.
What About High Heels?
Wearing high heels is a common footwear choice for women – and Barbie! However, even this type of footwear is not ideal since it puts excessive pressure on areas of the foot and lower body that can lead to various foot problems.
If it is necessary for you – and Barbie – to wear heels, consider choosing a lower heel with a wider base for added stability. Also, limit the time you walk or stand in heels.
Heel-to-Toe Movement is Best for Our Lower Body
The foot shape of Barbie is not practical for normal walking or standing. A normal heel-to-toe gait helps distribute the impact forces more evenly and reduces the risk of overloading specific areas of the feet and legs. If you have concerns about your walking or foot health, consider consulting a podiatrist or healthcare professional for personalized advice.
Derek Roach is a foot health specialist and has worked in the foot health industry for over 10 years. He is knowledge in various foot conditions and shoe features to help with those conditions. Also, he has been quoted on CNN, The Penny Hoarder, HuffPost, Dapper Confidential and other popular publications for foot and shoe-related topics.