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Clinicians have known for a long time that if you hold a limb in a shortened position over an extended period, the muscles shorten. High-heeled shoes push our heels up, which made Marco Narici from Manchester Metropolitan University wonder whether wearing heels on a regular basis could shorten our calf muscles.
Next Csapo and Seynnes used ultrasound to measure the muscle fibre length in the women's calf muscles, and this time they did see a difference. The high heel wearers' muscle fibres were 13% shorter than those of the women who wore flat shoes. "This confirmed the hypothesis," says Narici, "because when you place the muscle in a shorter position, the fibres become shorter."