As you know from my post about poisonous mushrooms and their use in Recettear, I have been trying to expand and look at some of the science topics portrayed in video games. Helix Waltz is a dress-up drama mobile game made by Crossing Star Studio. In the game you play as Magda, who is an orphan girl adopted by a fallen noble family raising her in the hopes of restoring the family to power. Madga meets numerous people and attends a variety of events and the results are based mostly on the clothing she is wearing at the time. Now this might not seem like a place for anime science, but there is always a bit of science to be discussed. In this case I will be looking into the science of shoes and how they affect the body.
Very early on in Helix Waltz the heroine Magda complains about her feet hurting.
You then discover that she has been wearing footwear with elevated heels all day, and this is where the science begins, but before that a little history.
Warning: History Lesson
Heeled shoes date all the way back to the tenth century and were used by archers on horseback, as the heel provided extra stability when riding and shooting. I can imagine how helpful this would be as my feet were constantly falling out of the stirrups when I went horseback riding in Mongolia.
Heeled footwear was also used during the medieval ages as a way to keep your feet out of the dirt and muck that littered the streets of cities during that time period. In one case the city of Venice passed regulations limiting the height to three inches.
Chopines (High Heels)
The modern heel didn’t appear until the 1700’s when they were worn by both women and men. They were used as a status symbol to raise your height above that of a lower class individual.
While it is not stated in Helix Waltz, I believe the game is set in a fictional European setting around the 1800’s.
History Content Over
Effects of Heeled Shoes
Leaving all other things aside, wearing shoes with elevated heels has a number of effects on the body as Magda learned firsthand. When standing barefoot, the bulk of the body’s weight is directed on the heel. This changes to a 50/50 split when wearing a regular shoe, which elevates the heel slightly, as seen below.
This changes again when wearing a shoe with an elevated heel. The body weight is shifted forward, putting more pressure on the toes. The degree to which the weight is shifted is determined by the height.
It is this shifting of the weight distribution on the foot that causes many of the health issues related to heels.
With the body’s weight shifted onto the toes, it forces the toes forward, pressing them against the front of the shoe, and out of alignment. Over time this can lead to bunions, which are bony bumps at the joint of your big toe, which can be quite painful.
Magda has not been wearing the shoes long enough to develop bunions, so I believe that her pain is coming more from her toes being pinched in her shoes rather than bunions.
There are a variety of structures helping to hold our body together, such as muscle and bone. Another structure that is equally important, but not as widely known outside of medical/biological circles, are fascia. Fascia are a type of connective tissue, (tissue that holds the body together) that attaches muscle to bone and keeps muscle separate from other body structures. Now despite the name the Plantar Fascia is not Fascia, but another type of connective tissue called aponeurosis, which for simplicity’s sake acts like a tendon and connects muscle to the body part it moves. In the case of the Plantar Fascia it connects the Achilles tendon to the bottom of the foot via the heel bone.
In addition to connecting the Achilles tendon to the bottom of the foot, it plays a major part in the structure in the arch of the foot, and how people walk. I also found a study that found the plantar fascia bears over 10% of the body’s weight when standing and walking. It should come as no surprise that a person’s choice of shoes can impact their plantar fascia.
Shoes with an elevated heel change the position of the foot, which changes the shape of the foot, and the plantar fascia along with it. Over time this can cause the plantar fascia to become inflamed, which is known as plantar fasciitis. Elevated heels also tend to lack padding underneath the heel which can exacerbate plantar fasciitis.
It can take some time for plantar fasciitis to develop so I am reasonably certain that it is not the source of Magda’s foot pain at the current time, but it could become a significant problem for her in the future.
Have you ever had that tingling sensation in your arm after you laid on it for a long period of time? If you have, you probably said that your arm fell asleep. This happened because you compressed (pinched) a nerve for a long period of time. In the case of an arm or a leg falling asleep the pinched nerve results in some annoying tingling for a short period of time. However, if other nerves in the body are compressed, the results can be quite painful such as a pinched nerve in the back.
The shoes you wear can also cause you to pinch a nerve in your foot. This depends on the type and style of shoe that a person decides to wear, and elevated heels can be particularly troublesome in this regard due to how it changes the position and shape of the foot. While I have never worn heels, I have experienced foot pain from compressed nerves before, while rowing in college. Stuffing my size 13 foot into shoes more than a few sizes too small left me in more than a bit of pain by the end of practice. Of everything I have discussed thus far, I think that a pinched nerve due to elevated heels is the main contributor to Magda’s pain. This is supported in the game by a nice line from Magda’s mother.
I do realize that I left out a number of complications of high heels; however, it is fairly clear that Magda is wearing heels for the first time when the game begins.
Thus, I did not go into some of the common long-term problems caused from wearing shoes with elevated heels. Out of the conditions I mentioned, I feel that a pinched nerve and altered shape of her foot are the cause of the pain that she is in by the end of the ball. So I am going to call this aspect of Helix Waltz confirmed.
I will say that I was pleasantly surprised to find this particular aspect of fashion and biology played straight, considering how many anime and video game heroines pull off feats in footwear that would be impossible in the real world.
FYI– In the spirit of full disclosure I made this post after being approached by New Code about creating a post about Helix Waltz and this is the result.