WEDNESDAY, Sept. 22 (HealthDay News) -- Wearing high heels while dancing may add an air of gracefulness to a woman's moves, but heels also place a great deal of extra pressure on a dancer's toes, scientists say.

British and Chinese researchers measured the forces exerted on the soles of the feet of six professional dancers. They found that when the study participants danced in their bare feet, the force was spread evenly between heel and toe. Dancing in high heels, however, resulted in more force being transferred to the front of the foot.

The study findings are published in the latest issue of the International Journal of Experimental and Computational Biomechanics.

Dancing in 10-centimeter high heels (about 4 inches) can lead to pressures three times that of the atmosphere being applied to the toes, according to Yaodong Gu, of the Liverpool John Moores University in the United Kingdom, and colleagues.

This increased pressure on the front of the foot can lead to discomfort and a painful condition called plantar fasciitis over an extended period of time, the researchers said. The findings may help improve the design of dance shoes with high heels, the study authors suggested.

"Most published studies have been focused on the effects of high-heeled shoes on normal walking, while research on more intensive locomotion such as dancing is very limited," the researchers pointed out in a news release from the journal's publisher.

More information

The American Podiatric Medical Association has more about footwear.