is it okay: to wear high heels?
When I see other women walking, running or even dancing in high heels, I am always amazed. Similar to watching a trapeze artist, or someone eating a yiros without dropping 37% of it into their lap, these are skills beyond my reach.
Walking in flat shoes I’m already clumsy and ungainly enough to have from time to time invited comment from friends, family – and the occasional stranger – that maybe I should invest some time and funds into a walking class. So, when high heels are added to the mix, things start entering the Danger Zone. The best way to describe it is something akin to Optimus Prime on stilts – if he had the coordination of a spider with six of its legs removed.
High heels are my enemy, and I avoid them like the plague. If the plague was something I got once or twice a year at Christmas time and the occasional wedding. When it comes to the question, is it ok to wear high heels, the only conclusion I can logically come to, is no.
On a personal level, it is a hell no. I’ve mentioned the clumsiness, and accompanying potential for injury. Two or three hours in to whatever event has called for foot martyrdom, I’m walking slowly, gingerly and even more unpredictably than usual. Friends become hobbing posts, metres start to look like kilometres, and bare-footedness becomes progressively more socially acceptable in my mind.
In the hours after taking them off, everything feels wrong – like I’m standing on tip-toe on the ground, and yet simultaneously floating. The harsh light of the next day shines brightly onto brand new blisters and bits of skin rubbed raw. Band-aids hurt. Walking hurts. When even putting on Ugg boots hurts, something is not right.
On a societal level, seriously, WTF? High heels are designed to make your legs look skinny and make you slightly taller. I don’t disagree that they look good in photos. I don’t disagree that pictures of models and actresses in amazing dresses would look weird if they were accessorised with a pair of flip flops – but I honestly think that’s because we’ve been trained to associate high heels with formal-wear, femininity and glamour.
When you break it down, what really is the point? Outside of what we’ve been trained to believe about looking good, what you’re left with is a high-priced item of clothing which is more likely to cause pain than not.
I have heard that with time, training and a bit of getting used to it, the pain goes away. That’s actually pretty worrying. Pain happens for a reason – it’s your body saying ‘whatever you’re doing, or whatever is happening, make it stop!’ The pain going away when you haven’t changed anything really just means the warning is gone – but the problem remains.
The body isn’t designed for high heels. It’s actually a pretty weird concept to begin with. Pushing up the heel of the foot can affect your posture, affect your spine and affect your centre of gravity. You are putting more pressure on the ball of your foot. Long term wearers can look forward to such attractive foot deformities as hammer toe and bunions. As an added bonus, you can also partake in things such as tendon damage and nerve impingement. Foot fashion – now with extra sciatica.
For the money that high heels cost, I may as well just hire someone to follow me around and kick my shins repeatedly. I’d actually probably end up with less long-term injuries.
Another argument of how unnecessary they are is that there is no male equivalent in any society – at least none that I can think of, or that a Google search will yield. However, foot mutilation in women is nothing new.
I recently received an email full of photographs of an old woman who had undergone foot binding in China. The photographs showed both the finished ‘product’ in a specially made shoe, and what it looked like when the bandages were off. In the latter, toes were horribly displaced, folded neatly underneath the main foot which was arched violently. The accompanying piece explained how this woman lived a life of constant pain, limited mobility and foot fungus. The reasons as to why this was done are many, but apparently apart from the aesthetics, a popular thought is that the deformity caused increased pressure on the heel, leading women to walk in such a way as to increase the tightness of the vaginal walls. Hot.
In our society, high heels are expected. Certain occasions, situations and even occupations require it. Many women in the airline and retail industries are told it is part of the dress code, and can even be called unprofessional if they don’t comply. It’s offensive to think that things like makeup and appearance-altering footwear can be the expected norm in some situations, whilst men are fine with how they look naturally. Excellent situation all round. If you told people ‘sorry, but if you come to this black tie event without first plunging your hand in to a bucket of mouse-traps, it will be severely frowned upon’ there would be a few raised eyebrows (the other one is down to hold a monocle in place.)
When it comes to saying that it is not ok to wear high heels, I guess I have to qualify the statement. I’m not saying we should judge others or ourselves for wearing them. I’m saying we should give it a bit more thought. It’s painful. It’s detrimental. But apparently it makes us look good. So, wearing high heels is OK in the same way that it is OK to smoke, binge drink or eat junk food. When I’m powering through a cheesecake, I know it’s bad for me, but I do it anyway.
I know high heels are not OK. There is pretty much nothing good to be said for them, whilst the list of bad goes for longer than an Ent reciting the dictionary. But, if the occasion calls for it (and by that, I mean really calls, and leaves three voicemails and a text) then I will dust them off, pull them on, and get an ice bucket at the ready.
Be right back. Cheesecake.
P.S. I’m lactose intolerant.