The influence of heel height on utilized coefficient of friction during walking

Gait Posture. 2011 May;34(1):107-10. doi: 10.1016/j.gaitpost.2011.03.023. Epub 2011 May 4.


Wearing high heel shoes has been associated with an increased potential for slips and falls. The association between wearing high heels and the increased potential for slipping suggests that the friction demand while wearing high heels may be greater when compared to wearing low heel shoes. The purpose of this study was to determine if heel height affects utilized friction (uCOF) during walking. A secondary purpose of this study was to compare kinematics at the ankle, knee, and hip that may explain uCOF differences among shoes with varied heel heights. Fifteen healthy women (mean age 24.5±2.5yrs) participated. Subjects walked at self-selected velocity under 3 different shoe conditions that varied in heel height (low: 1.27cm, medium: 6.35cm, and high: 9.53cm). Ground reaction forces (GRFs) were recorded using a force platform (1560Hz). Kinematic data were obtained using an 8 camera motion analysis system (120Hz). Utilized friction was calculated as the ratio of resultant shear force to vertical force. One-way repeated measures ANOVAs were performed to test for differences in peak uCOF, GRFs at peak uCOF and lower extremity joint angles at peak uCOF. On average, peak uCOF was found to increase with heel height. The increased uCOF observed in high heel shoes was related to an increase in the resultant shear force and decrease in the vertical force. Our results signify the need for proper public education and increased footwear industry awareness of how high heel shoes affect slip risk.

MeSH terms

  • Accidental Falls
  • Adult
  • Analysis of Variance
  • Ankle Joint / physiology
  • Biomechanical Phenomena
  • Female
  • Friction
  • Gait / physiology
  • Heel*
  • Hip Joint / physiology
  • Humans
  • Knee Joint / physiology
  • Risk Factors
  • Shoes*
  • Video Recording
  • Walking / physiology*