Varicose Veins: Crossed Legs and High-Heels to Blame?

Posted on March 23, 2016 by Cynthia M. Poulos, M.D.

I’m sure you have probably heard one or two people mention to you that crossing your legs and/or wearing high heels can cause varicose veins. It is tough to decipher what is truth and what is myth with all the varying opinions that exist on the internet, thankfully some vascular surgeons decided to look into this themselves and here is what they found.

Crossing your legs is not directly responsible for venous reflux disease, but it can contribute to the problem in some instances. When you cross your legs the venous blood pressure in your legs increases, because your veins have to try even harder to get the blood pumping through your legs due to the restricted flow path. This increase venous pressure does put a heightened amount of stress on the valves inside your leg veins, which can have an effect on valve function over time.

Vascular surgeons also determined that high heels could also contribute to the development of vein diseases such as varicose veins. Vascular surgeons performed a study on the difference in blood pressure in women’s legs when they are walking in high-heels and when they are not. It was discovered that calf muscles contract less when you walk in high-heels than they do when you aren’t—this means that less blood is being pushed out of the leg, causing the venous blood pressure to increase. Like with the legs crossed scenario, the increased strain on the veins can cause stress on your valves in the veins in your legs.

Neither crossed legs nor high-heels are directly to blame for the development of varicose veins, but both could be contributing to the problem. This doesn’t mean you need to stop crossing your legs or wearing heels, but it is important to be aware of the effect it might be having on your body. Try not to constantly be crossing your legs or wearing heels and if you are make sure to take moments throughout the day to stretch out your calf muscles to ensure proper blood flow throughout your legs.