Why Do Shoes Have a Raised Heel? (Purpose In Different Shoes)

The human foot is a marvel of engineering, providing the foundation for all movement and the transmission of the body’s weight to the ground. In many ways, a shoe’s design is an attempt to duplicate that natural functioning.

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The goal is to build a shoe that allows you to stand, walk and run with as much freedom and comfort as possible. That explains why your shoes have heels.

Why Do Shoes Have a Raised Heel?

Your heel is actually made up of three different bones — the calcaneus (heel bone), talus, and navicular — that meet at a single point at the back of your ankle joint. These bones are held together by ligaments and connective tissue, so they can move freely within your foot.

A raised heel allows for more freedom in the ankle and foot joints, because it lifts your body away from the ground. This gives you more mobility through your ankles, which enables you to walk with a more natural gait. A higher heel also pushes your hips forward, making it easier for your knees to bend while walking or running.

In addition, a raised heel gives you better balance while standing or walking on uneven surfaces. This might not seem important when you’re walking down a sidewalk or across a flat parking lot, but imagine trying to walk across an uneven field.

Originally, shoes were created with a raised heel to make horse riding easier, so the rider’s foot would have a harder time slipping out of the stirrup. Modern shoes have a raised heel for fashion reasons and to offer additional support for the ankle and heel.

Legs are perceived to look better when a raised heel is worn, making it fashionable for almost all shoes to have a higher heel. A raised heel also offers increased ankle support and raises the sensitive heel higher off of the ground and away from rough or damaging terrain.

Why Do Running Shoes Have Raised Heels?

Running shoes are designed to help you run faster and longer. They cushion the impact of your foot hitting the ground and support your ankles, knees, and hips. But do you know why there is a raised heel in running shoes?

A raised heel helps to distribute your weight evenly on the sole of your foot, which prevents injury. The height also provides a more natural position for your ankle and knee joints, which makes them less likely to suffer from overuse injuries.

The heel also helps with balance when you run. It keeps your body upright and makes it easier for you to push off during each step. This gives you greater speed and agility when sprinting or trying to outmaneuver an opponent. The raised heel in running shoes also improves the way you run by creating a more symmetrical running pattern, which is considered ideal for runners.

Benefits of a raised heel in running shoes:

  • Traction. The raised heel in running shoes is there for traction. When you’re running, your foot lands on the heel then rolls forward onto the toes and finally returns to the heel when it pushes off again. While this makes for good running technique, it also can lead to increased knee stress, which can increase injury risk. The raised heel allows for better shock absorption on that landing phase, reducing knee stress and injury risk.
  • Heel support. The raised heel also helps provide extra support to your feet, ankles, and lower legs when you’re working hard during your workout. This is especially important if you run under different conditions – say if you run in both hot and cold weather – where your body may not acclimate to the temperature change as much as it should. This added support can help prevent injuries due to over-striding or over-pushing yourself too hard during a workout.
  • Stride. Another reason for using raised heels in running shoes is to help runners achieve a more efficient stride pattern. Many studies have shown that over-striding while on a run or jog can cause injuries because it forces the runner to land with their feet far out in front of their body. By having a raised heel, which makes it harder for people to over-stride, there are fewer injuries sustained by runners who use these types of shoes.

 

Under Armour Men's Charged Pursuit 2 Running Shoe, Black (001)/White, 11 M US

 

When you run, your foot strikes the ground with energy and impact that needs to be absorbed. This energy is then transmitted through muscles, tendons, ligaments, bones, and joints.

The body has a complex system of shock absorption involving the Achilles tendon, the mid-foot, and various parts of the lower leg and it does a great job at absorbing most of this impact energy.

However, there is some amount of force that gets transmitted up the leg and into the knee joint where it can cause injury through excessive shock loading.

By raising your heel slightly within the shoe you are increasing your foot’s angle from flat to upwards of 20 degrees depending on shoe type which reduces that shock transmission into the knee joint.

The other reason running shoes have raised heels is to provide forward propulsion while running. Running up hills or on inclined surfaces requires an upward dynamic thrust to maintain forward progress. Raising your heel within a running shoe can provide this upward thrust by virtue of its shape and construction.

Why Do Work Boots Have a Raised Heel?

The heel isn’t just there to make boots look good. Its purpose is functional so that your feet don’t take all of the pressure. The soles of your feet are very sensitive and without the raised heel, you would be susceptible to Achilles tendinitis, plantar fasciitis, and other foot injuries.

Work boots, such as logger boots used by loggers, farmers, and linemen, often have a raised heel to navigate rough terrain or climb easily. While the raised heel may be slightly uncomfortable or clunky to walk in, it is very functional.

 

Timberland Men's White Ledge Mid Waterproof Ankle Boot,Black,9.5 M US

 

Further Functionality

It also supports the ankle on rough terrain and when using stirrups. Further, the raised heel also protects your foot at jobs where you have to stand on concrete for a long time or frequently climb inclines. While raised heel logger boots started in the logging industry, they are now used widely in different worker industries.

One of the most important features of a good pair of work boots is a raised heel. They provide many benefits for the wearer, including better traction, ankle support, and foot stability.

  • Traction. The raised heel provides more traction for workers who walk on slippery surfaces. The extra surface area provides more surface for the sole to grip to the ground, so workers do not slip or lose balance as easily.
  • Ankle support. When a worker is standing or moving around on rough terrain, his or her ankles are at a much greater risk of injury. This can be particularly true when workers are on uneven surfaces or walking over sharp objects like broken glass. Raised heels prevent the ankle from bending too far forward, which can reduce the chance of injury.
  • Foot stability. The raised heel also helps keep your foot stable inside the work boot. When you walk, your toes are designed to roll at an angle to allow you to move smoothly and efficiently. A raised heel prevents your foot from rolling too far inwards, which can cause discomfort and pain in your foot and ankle joints.

A raised heel that’s built into the boot gives it its shape and helps to improve comfort. Even if a work boot has an insole, as well as a removable insert for cushioning, it will usually still have a raised heel for extra security.

Why Do Weightlifting Shoes Have a Raised Heel?

Weightlifting shoes have an elevated heel to help improve a lifter’s mobility and technique during certain lifts. A raised heel provides lifters with extra support and stability which could enhance performance.

The raised heel of weightlifting shoes is specifically designed to improve your form and allow for greater ankle mobility while performing a lift.

Most trainers and professional weightlifters agree that the reinforced support and higher heel elevation of weightlifting shoes result in better torso alignment, less stress on the lower back, and more power during lifts that use lower body strength.

If you’re performing any of the following lifts, you might benefit from the raised heel of weightlifting shoes:

  • squat
  • snatch
  • clean
  • clean and jerk
  • overhead press
  • thruster

The raised heel also helps ensure proper squat form by preventing the feet from moving forward under heavyweight. Many weightlifters will wear their shoes with no socks in order to better grip the floor and achieve maximum stability. This keeps the foot from sliding forward or backward during a lift.

Weightlifting shoes are designed with a raised heel so that your body is aligned in the proper position. A big part of this is to make sure you engage the full range of motion when you squat, close-stance lift, and even run. In fact, many running shoe companies now make weightlifting shoes as a cross-training product.

 

adidas Men's Adipower Weightlifting Ii Sneaker, Black, 14 M US

 

How Do Weightlifting Shoes Help You Squat?

Weightlifting shoes have a wedge in the heel. This is what makes them different from traditional sneakers or other types of footwear. The wedge causes your foot to be closer to an angle of 90-degrees with your lower leg when you squat. This allows for a deeper squat than you would normally be able to do without lifting shoes and it also helps keep things like your knee tracking properly.

Why Do Weightlifting Shoes Have a Wedge?

The wedge helps the lifter by adding more surface area for their feet to rest on when performing certain exercises. Think about it like this, if you have a barbell across your back and you need to lift it out of the rack, what’s going to give first? Your heels or your toes? The answer is your toes because they have less surface area. The wedge in weightlifting shoes helps keep your feet flat on the ground.

Squatting in a flat-heeled shoe forces your ankles into an unnatural position that makes it very difficult to keep your balance throughout the movement. That can lead to lifting with improper form, which increases your risk of injury.

Why Do Squat Shoes Have Elevated Heels?

Shoes with elevated heels are useful for keeping your feet in place during lifts like front squats, back squats, and overhead squats. They also help lifters maintain proper form when doing deadlifts, which requires a lot of balance.

Squat shoes have elevated heels to give the user greater mobility allowing them to squat to a greater depth.

  • An elevated heel allows for greater ankle flexion.
  • The extra height provided by a heel makes it easier for the knee to move forward during a squat without the feet coming off the floor.
  • The user has a greater range of motion during the squat and can squat deeper without being restricted by poor ankle mobility.
  • Another benefit is that the heel allows the torso to stay upright during the squat. A raised heel causes the lifter and the bar’s weight to shift forward. The body remains more upright during the squat to compensate for this, allowing the user to squat deeper.

If you’re training in a squat rack or power cage, wearing a pair of lifting shoes can also prevent you from accidentally stepping on the bars and injuring yourself. The raised heel prevents you from stepping too far back if you lose your balance while squatting or pulling heavy weights off the ground.


In summary, the heel of a shoe helps to reduce friction between the shoe and the ground surface when the wearer walks or runs. Friction is minimized by providing a smooth transition from toe-off to mid-stance to heel-strike (the point when the foot first contacts the ground).

Reducing friction during this transition helps to save energy and improves overall performance by reducing muscle fatigue since less energy will be needed for movement during running and walking activities.

To maintain stability in a shoe, it is recommended that you wear shoes with heels that are roughly 1 inch higher than your natural arch.

The extra height provides additional support to balance your upright posture while maintaining comfort through longer periods of activity.

It also reduces forces exerted on your lower extremities; which may help to prevent injuries caused by excessive pressure on your joints, particularly those in your feet and knees.

You may also be interested in… Why Can’t I Wear Flats? (Why Do They Hurt So Much?) and How Do You Store Shoes Long-Term?