Muscle Memory

The old saying goes it’s just like riding a bike, and this idiom is very true for many things we take for granted in our every day lives. It defines the concept that it’s practically impossible to unlearn actions that are programmed into our muscles, for example walking, cycling or swimming. The way heels alter your body does mean your muscles work differently, I’ve talked about how ankles work harder, and you have to strut changing the way your hips and pelvic floor move, all of this will eventually be pulled together into one sleek walk just like a well trained orchestra.

Many of you will have come across the dilemma when going on a night out, you want to go out in those killer heels, yet know that your heels are too unsteady to dance in. One solution is to slip them off and dance barefoot, but not all places like you doing that, besides who wants to go barefoot on a sticky wet dancefloor. You’re probably wondering how all the top ballroom dancers make it look so easy, its actually just an extension of learning how to walk.


I do wish I could dance as good as them, I probably need to train more. Some of the turns in particular are hard to excecute in flat shoes.
Image used under Creative Commons License by Ailura

These dancers have spent so much time practicing in heels they have learnt how to use all their muscles in harmony to balance, and make those moves, and they’ll tell you heels respond faster and some moves simply can’t be done in flat shoes. Naturally it does help to have a understanding and cooperative partner to catch you when you fall over practicing, if you don’t have a willing vic-ahem-helper there are dance groups who will help even those with two good left feet (i.e. me).

For an action to become that instinctive muscle memory takes a certain amount of time where the action is repeated over and over again. In the case of walking this actually happens quite quickly if you think how many steps it takes to walk even a short distance, although you do have to walk properly as otherwise you’ll program in the wrong set of movements. Essentially when you no longer have to think about walking in a pair of heels means that it has been permanently programmed. Another previous post reminds us it is important to bear in mind when adopting a new heel height you will need to take a little time to readjust.

The challenge realising when these memories are formed, you may start to feel confident and become complacent. However these memories may not have been properly stored, and you may find yourself caught out if you only practice a couple of times in your new shoes. It’s important to be patient and remember too much practice won’t do any harm.

Finally, thanks goes to Imogen for reminding me about my own struggles while learning how to salsa in heels.

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