Well, I decided I’d jump right in with what I suspect will be my most controversial post – perhaps ever! Seems silly to say when this post is about the somewhat unimportant subject of shoes, but we women tend to be pretty attached to our shoes! As far as heels go, though, the fact is, I think they are terrible for our health…among other things.
Now I know that many, many women love their high heels. If you are one of them, please don’t write me off yet. I certainly don’t have anything against people who love high heels – if you love them, that’s wonderful and if they make you feel good, then I say wear them with pride! I would never judge anyone for wearing high heels, ever! The purpose of this post is simply to talk about my own thoughts about high heels, their role in feminism (again, my opinions) and what they do to our bodies.
My relationship with high heels began at a very young age, as I’m sure is true for most women who grew up in this culture. I grew up playing with Barbie dolls whose bare feet are unnaturally shaped with the heels hovering high in the air as if her Achilles tendons are pulling her up off the floor. And if you are like me, you probably had a whole wardrobe to go with your Barbie, including dozens of high heeled shoes (back in the 80′s, no sneakers came with Barbie wardrobes…and that is a subject that could make for several blog posts!). Are we being programmed to associate high heels with femininity? Beauty? Womanhood?
Funnily enough, none of the adult women in my life wore high heels – ever – except for my grandfather’s wife, who wore them every day. She even had high heeled slippers. She was gracious and generous to her five step-granddaughters and let us all play in her closet and walk around in her shoes (she has very tiny feet, lucky for us!). We argued over who got to wear the feathered heels and the clear, see-through heels and the leather heels and on and on, and then would go strutting around the patio in them for all of five minutes – it was so hard to walk in them that we would become bored very quickly and go back to running around, riding bikes and chasing each other. In sneakers. Or our bare feet.
Throughout my teens and twenties, I attempted to wear high heels on numerous occasions. I thought they were pretty (and I still do, for the most part). I wanted to look tall and thin (don’t we all?). And let’s face it – like tuxedos for men, there’s a certain sartorial expectation for women in extremely formal situations – and that includes high heels. Funerals, graduations, weddings – I tried so hard to keep my big feet in those shoes. And ouch!
I have always suffered from joint maladies – ankles, knees, hips – as well as back problems and fallen arches. If I stand or walk for too long, I experience pain even when wearing sneakers. High heels have always caused me immense pain, even after a few moments of wearing them. I can remember gritting my teeth in pain for the duration of my college graduation ceremony, fantasizing about kicking my heels off the moment I got home.
Over the years, I read articles about high heels and what they do to our bodies. In case you don’t know, they can cause sciatica, shortened Achilles tendons, sprained ankles, hammer toes, arthritis, lower back pain, degenerative joint disease of the knees, tendinitis, corns, “pump bump” (a bony enlargement on the back of the heel), metatarsalgia and nerve damage, just to name a handful of the consequences of wearing heels every day. I wasn’t surprised by anything I read – my body had already told me that wearing high heels was bad for my joints, back and feet. What does surprise me is how much pain I and others are willing to endure to be beautiful.
About a year ago, I read an interview with Sela Ward in a magazine, in which she talked about breaking her ankle when she fell while wearing platform shoes. I remember thinking: We women are wearing shoes that cause us to be so unstable that we might fall and break our bones? Then I recalled the many stories I’ve heard from friends who got their heels caught in sewer grates (didn’t that happen to Samantha Jones in Sex and the City?), who sank in mud, who fell over while walking on uneven ground and who couldn’t get to their destination on time because it hurt too much to walk. Again, I think to myself: Why are we hindering our ability to MOVE? Isn’t there something a little bit creepy about wearing something that affects our sense of balance, our speed, our mobility? Honestly, I sometimes see heels as a self-imposed act of mutilation – it permanently damages our bodies and literally cripples us while we are wearing them.
Ten years ago, four inch heels were considered high. I read many articles saying that you should never wear four inch heels for very long – two hours, maximum, before switching to a lower heel. Today, six inch heels have come into fashion. SIX INCHES. Is it just me or does it seem masochistic to force your foot into a shoe that lifts your heel half a foot above the ground?
I found an online article about the burgeoning market for six inch heels that, to my surprise, recommends this shoe (below) as the ideal “everyday shoe.” (I can’t imagine wearing these every day! This makes my feet hurt just looking at it!)
Now I’m guessing six inch heels still aren’t the norm for the average woman. I think most women stick with 2-4″ heels. But the potential to harm our bodies is still there, even if you opt out of the six inch trend.
And children? Oh yeah, this affects them, too. While in my day, a little girl’s exposure to high heels was usually limited to playing with Mama’s (or another relative’s) high heels, today, it’s not uncommon for little girls to have their very own pair of heels. Suri Cruise has become the poster child for this fashion movement, while mother Katie Holmes has taken a lot of heat for sparking the debate about whether or not children should be allowed to wear high heels.
So… If you’ve kindly stuck around to read this (heel-lovers, -haters and everyone in between), I’d love to hear what you think. Is this a crazy, anti-feminist fashion trend (that’s likely here to stay) or is it worth the pain?
Again, please let me say that I completely respect every woman and her opinions on feminism and her choice of footwear!