Heels or Birkenstock? Barbie Feet Challenge Isn't Worth the Pain
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Heels or Birkenstock? Barbie Feet Challenge Isn't Worth the Pain

Oct 17, 2023

Photo Illustration by Amelia Manley for Verywell Health; Getty Images

The viral Barbie feet challenge on TikTok may look innocent enough, but it does pose a risk of discomfort or injury.

To recreate a now iconic scene in the Barbie movie, some TikTokers are attempting to step out of high heels, walk on tiptoes, and maintain their feet in an arched position.

But it was no simple feat. Margot Robbie, the actor who plays Barbie, told Entertainment Tonight she received some help for the scene—sticky double-sided tape on the floor and a bar to hold onto. Even then, that scene took her eight takes.

Although the Barbie feet challenge seems innocuous, doing it repeatedly could injure your feet, according to Anne Sharkey, DPM, a board-certified podiatrist based in Texas.

Mimicking the high arch “places the foot in a position that’s predisposed to the risk of ankle sprain or ankle fracture,” Sharkey told Verywell in an email.

Maintaining the tiptoe position for a prolonged period of time can also hurt the Achilles tendon, which connects muscles in the back of your calf to your heel bone—and it’s not very flexible. If you wear heels a lot, Sharkey explained, it can shorten or rupture the Achilles tendon and cause a myriad of foot problems, such as Achilles tendonitis and plantar fasciitis.

Wearing high heels regularly or for a long time can lead to long-term effects on foot health, such as changes in foot structure, muscle imbalances, an increased risk of foot and ankle injuries, and chronic foot pain, according to Suzanne Fuchs, DPM, a board-certified podiatric foot and ankle surgeon based in Florida.

Research suggests long-term high-heel use may compromise muscle efficiency in walking, and high-heel wearers often report experiencing discomfort and muscle fatigue.

Wearing heels not only alters the natural position of the feet, but can also cause blisters, calluses, corns, and bunions.

“Similarly, wearing heels can also contribute to plantar fasciitis, which is the inflammation of the plantar fascia, a thick band of tissue that runs along the bottom of the foot,” Fuchs told Verywell. “The altered foot position in heels causes the plantar fascia to be excessively stretched and strained, leading to micro-tears and inflammation.”

Higher heels come with a higher risk of injuries. Keeping your heels under three inches and limiting the time you spend in heels can protect your feet, according to Sharkey. Wearing wedges or heels with a wider base of support can also be a great choice for comfort and fashion.

“My best advice is to stretch your calf muscle and Achilles tendon daily to maintain flexibility,” Sharkey said.

To stretch your feet after a day in heels, you can follow these simple steps:

First, stand facing a wall with your hands resting on it for support. Step back with one foot, keeping it straight with your heel flat on the ground. Then, bend your front knee while keeping the back leg straight. Make sure your heel stays on the ground. You should feel a stretch in the calf of the back leg. Hold it for 20–30 seconds. Switch legs and repeat.

The calf stretch, according to Fuchs, can “help alleviate tightness and promote flexibility in the calf muscles and Achilles tendon.”

While flexing your toes like Barbie may provide temporary relief for conditions like plantar fasciitis, it’s not a long-term solution, Fuchs said. If you’re experiencing foot pain, it’s important to address the underlying causes and seek appropriate medical advice for proper treatment.

While the risk may seem small, the Barbie Feet Challenge can open the door to accidents like falls, sprains, and fractures. As fabulous as heels may be, their long-term use can result in injury, chronic pain, and conditions such as Achilles tendonitis and plantar fasciitis. Try to limit how long you wear heels and make sure to give your feet rest in comfortable shoes. Choose heels that are under three inches, or platform heels that have wider support, and finish your day with some calf stretches.

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